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This section of SustainabiliTank.info – REAL WORLD’S NEWS – will be carrying short notes with information not based on the daily press of the United States.

We will not attempt here to write lengthy articles, neither will we editorialize on why the information did not see light in the US.

If readers find other material relevant to sustainable development that was not published, please forward it to us at: Submissions@SustainabiliTank.info


 
Real World’s News:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

July 22, 2014
Friends,“In each pause I hear the call”
Ralph Waldo EmersonThis quote has been especially front of mind this year because LRN, the company I have devoted my life to building, is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and milestones are perfect occasions to pause. Pausing and mindfulness are in vogue in the world today; there is even a meditation room in Newark airport. However, we can go so much deeper in our pauses than merely taking respite from the frenzied pace of life. As I wrote in FastCompany, “Why There’s More to Taking a Break than Just Sitting There,” pausing is essential in the 21st century, because it is what allows us to thrive in an interdependent world in which we need to think deeply about how every action we take affects others, reconnect with our values and purpose, and, from there, to re-imagine our future. It is in that spirit that I invite you to pause with me.

As a parent of two small children, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help them grow into thoughtful, ethical people. A critical piece of this is teaching them right and wrong and how to atone when they behave badly. It is easy to inadvertently teach children to treat apologies as verbal escape routes out of a problem. It is much harder to teach them to treat an apology as a moment to pause, reflect and take responsibility for the behavior that led to the act for which they are contrite.

It is a problem endemic to our society; we have an apology inflation on our hands, as it has become habitual – in business, politics, entertainment, sports – to churn out one knee-jerk apology after another in response to a public mistake. In reaction to this trend, New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin and I have partnered to launch The Apology Project in the Dealbook section of the Times. The goal of the project is to elevate the conversation about apologies so that people view them as meaningful opportunities to change behavior, instead of as “get out of jail free” cards, through profiles of meaningful apologies and crowd-sourcing surveys of recent apologies.

 

Of course, parents know that the real key is to inculcate the right values in our children so that they will rely on these values to make decisions, hopefully preventing misbehavior in the first place. As hard as it might be to do this in the context of a family unit, it is even harder to do at the scale of a global corporation. This is why the work of LRN and our partners in the ethics and compliance industry is so meaningful. In our annual Knowledge Forum, where LRN gathers its partners together for learning and discussion, we reflected on how our mission is to enable employees to pause, that is, to reflect on their values, the law, and the consequences of their action or inaction (e.g. before taking a bribe, when witnessing misconduct). Ethics and compliance officers are in the “pause” business, but they aren’t alone. Anyone who is trying to provoke reflection, re-assessment, and re-imagination is in the “pause” business; it is, in fact, what leaders do. Leaders pause for themselves and create contexts in which others can pause. 

 
To pause is fundamentally human. Machines are automated and keep going unthinkingly; humans have the freedom to re-imagine and pivot to a different path. To pivot is to plant one foot on the ground and move the other foot in a new direction. To “pivot” in business, especially in Silicon Valley, means to radically shift your strategy and business model, usually because of shifts in market or customer feedback. Twitter used to be a podcast-discovery company, and PayPal used to be meant for “beaming” money between PDAs before they pivoted and landed on the right business model. Silicon Valley is truly the birthplace of the pivot, and, as I said to the crowd onstage while I was talking with Tom Friedman in this year’s Next New World Forum in San Francisco, pivoting requires pausing. To pivot is to ground one’s self in one’s beliefs, convictions and values while re-imagining a new direction that adapts to a changing world. We only have the freedom to pivot when we allow ourselves to embark on a true journey. It is when we try to follow linear calendars and budgets that we lock ourselves into our plans and operate on autopilot. 
 

More and more people are pausing to assess and re-imagine the direction in which many institutions are headed, including capitalism itself. Of course, most remain firm believers in capitalism as the best economic system for generating prosperity, but many are, nevertheless, acutely aware of its current problems (i.e. growing income inequality) and grasp the need to move capitalism in a new direction. The leaders behind Inclusive Capitalism, Conscious Capitalism (whose annual conference I had the honor of keynoting this year), Creative Capitalism, Responsible Capitalism and Capitalism 2.0 are re-imagining business in a way that is much more conscious of all stakeholders and the operating environment. Some are worried about the abuses of freedom in a free market system and want to restrict people’s freedom, but that is because they are operating from a one-sided view of freedom. Freedom is really an intricate dynamic between “freedom from” (top-down hierarchy, gatekeepers) and “freedom to” (collaborate, innovate, pursue meaning, do the right thing, etc). It is this dynamic of freedom that ought to be at the heart of free enterprise. This is not just a philosophical distinction. In LRN’s biggest study since the HOW Report, the Freedom Report shows that the companies that have the right balance of freedom are more likely to outperform, out-innovate, and be resilient for the long run.

 

Beyond capitalism, people are re-imagining every dimension of society. The National Football League (NFL), for instance, is pausing to re-define the recipe for winning. Instead of training players solely as tough performers, the League is endeavoring to infuse locker rooms with human values such as respect and collaboration, where a player can bring his whole self, as a “person, father, and husband.” LRN is honored to have the opportunity to be a part of their journey. The League isn’t the only “rough and tumble” organization that is rethinking the culture in which its people are formed.

 

Confronted with the demands of modern warfare, the U.S. Army is also re-imagining and reshaping basic training in a way that trains soldiers to pause and think critically before making decisions, instead of just following orders. Even “discipline” is being re-imagined, for as my friend Lieutenant Colonel JC Glick said, “Discipline is not about being on time. Discipline is about doing the right thing at the right time.” The world has become so relationally interdependent and complex that we are forced to hit the “pause button,” to re-imagine and re-steer the direction in which our revered institutions – capitalism, the NFL, our military – are moving.

 

How do we begin to pause? Aristotle said that excellence is not a single act but a habit. The best way to pause, then, is to begin to form habits of pausing at a young age, which is why we are working with universities to introduce the “HOW” philosophy. The NROTC program at Miami University of Ohio is creatively adopting the HOW philosophy to train emerging Navy and Marine leaders in approaching ethical dilemmas. Elsewhere in the academy, Israeli students at Tel-Aviv Yaffo College are partnering with companies to conduct culture assessments, North Dakota State University students are running HOW workshops with representatives from academic departments, and Baruch College, a senior college of the City University of New York system, has partnered with us and declared 2014 the Year of the HOW. We are planting seeds in the next wave of leaders by enabling them to pause from the hustle-and-bustle of testing and build moral character—it is hard to think of a more meaningful endeavor.
 
 
Thank you for allowing me to share with you what has been on my mind in the past few months. I welcome any comments, questions or feedback, and I would love to hear from you as to where you are in your journey as well.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dov Seidman

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Call for UN Reforms After Ban Flies on Qatar-Funded, UK Registered Plane

By Matthew Russell Lee, The Inner City Press at the UN – Follow up on exclusive

 

UNITED NATIONS, July 21, more hereWhy shouldn’t the UN be able to live up the most basic standards of transparency and good government?

   Inner City Press, and now the Free UN Coalition for Access, have been asking this question. From the UN’s July 21 transcript, video here from Minute 12:55

Inner City Press: As I asked you before, and I know that you had said you would answer at some point, how did the Secretary-General fly from New York to Qatar?  Was it on a Qatari plane, and what safeguards are in place? Would he take a flight from any nation?

Spokesman Dujarric:  Okay, Matthew, it was the Qatari Government [that] very generously chartered a plane for the Secretary-General to enable him to go about his visit.  This is not the kind of visit that we could do if we were not flying on a private plane.  It is not a Qatari plane; it was chartered.  It is a British-registered plane, as some of you will be able to see on the photos.  But, it is a private aircraft funded by the Qatari Government.

   Should the UN Secretary General in a mediation attempt accept free travel from a country with a particular interest in the conflict to be mediated?

   What review should take place? What disclosures should be made, and when? From later in the UN’s July 21 transcript, video here from Minute 31:

 

Inner City Press: you are saying that the use of private planes, generically if necessary, is signed off by the ethics office, but my question is, private planes provided by anyone? Would the Secretary-General, would he accept such service from any Member State, or would he accept it from corporations? The question becomes, given that particular countries have different views of the conflict, what review is made before accepting a particular country’s contribution?

Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq: Well, we do have, like I said, an ethics office and a legal office that can look into these things and see whether something is appropriate or not.

Inner City Press: Was this particular flight checked or you’re saying there’s a generic ruling in advance that any private plane is okay?

Deputy Spokesman Haq: No, I don’t think there’s a generic ruling about this, but certainly, if you need to justify this for essential needs, and something like this, a trip that the Secretary-General was able to embark on and made the decision on just at the end of last week and then had to travel, starting Saturday evening, something like that would have been extremely hard or basically impossible to do in a different sort of way.

Inner City Press: I’m asking because in the budget Committee, often many, particularly developing world countries, they say that things should be funded out of the UN’s general budget rather than taking voluntary contributions from States that then have influence. So, my question is, isn’t there a travel budget? We’ve asked in this room many times to know what the budget is, so I’d still like to know that. But, if there is a budget, why wasn’t the general UN budget used for this rather than taking a specific gift from a specific country? That’s the question.

Deputy Spokesman Haq: The worry is, of course, if you run out of money early, does that mean you can’t travel, even if there’s a crisis? In this case, there was a crisis that necessitated sudden travel.

  Inner City Press broke the story on July 19 — credit has been given, for example, by Newsweek, here — and has been asking Ban’s spokespeople for disclosure and what safeguards are in place.

   Lead spokesman Dujarric replied but did not answer on July 19. When he called in to the UN noon briefing from Cairo on July 21, Inner City Press asked him again on whose plane Ban is traveling.

  This time, Dujarric answered that Ban is flying on a Qatar government funded, UK registered plane.  But he did not answer if there are any safeguards against influence or conflicts of interest. Would Ban accept free flights from any UN member state? From anyone at all?

  Inner City Press asked Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, who said  the UN Ethics Office said taking private planes is okay when necessary.

  But private planes from ANYONE? Any member state? A corporation? There have been no real answers, yet. But there need to be.

 Diplomats told Inner City Press that Ban would fly — on a Qatari plane — to Qatar, Ramallah (but not for now Gaza), Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait.

  The diplomats who complained to Inner City Press questioned not only Ban taking free flights from a particular country, but also how the use (and landing) of a Qatari plane will play in, for example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

 Inner City Press asked Ban’s top two spokespeople, and the spokesperson listed as on weekend duty, the following:

“Please state whether the Secretary General is accepting free transportation from any member state or outside party for his current trip to the region concerning the Gaza crisis, and if so please explain the reason and any safeguards in place against influence or conflict of interest.

“Such disclosure should be common practice; if necessary, note that former Spokesperson Nesirky did answer such Press questions, for example concerning the Secretary General flying on a UAE plane (see sample below). On deadline, thank you in advance.

From: UN Spokesperson – Do Not Reply [at] un.org
Subject: Your questions
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at] InnerCityPress.com
Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM

- The UAE Government provided an aircraft to fly the Secretary-General from Beirut to Abu Dhabi because of time constraints.

     Later on July 19, the following was received, which we publish in full 25 minutes after receipt:

 

 

From: Stephane Dujarric [at] un.org
Date: Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 5:30 PM
Subject: Re: Press question if SG is accepting free travel from any member state or outside party, as was disclosed in 2012, on deadline, thanks
To: Matthew.Lee [at] innercitypress [dot] com
Cc: FUNCA [at] funca.info

Dear Matthew, Thanks for your question and thanks for the draft answer. The logistical details of the SG’s trip, including the travel arrangements are still being worked out. Once we are in a position to confirm them, i will revert.

best

Stephane Dujarric (Mr.)
Spokesman for the Secretary-General

  But obviously the “logistical details” of getting to Qatar were worked out – Ban had already been to Qatar, then Kuwait before Cairo.

  One asked, what can you solve if you can’t even say how you got there?

  Inner City Press thanked Dujarric and his colleagues for the interim response and asked, “both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Poroshenko’s office say they have spoken with the Secretary General and give read-outs. Will a UN read-out be put out? If so, when? If not, why not?”

  On July 21, Inner City Press asked Haq, who confirmed the calls took place but nothing about the contents. What is happened with the UN?
The Free UN Coalition for Access is pressing for reforms.
We’ll have more on this.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Washington Post: Shifa Hospital in Gaza City ‘Has Become a De Facto Headquarters for Hamas Leaders, Who Can Be Seen in Hallways and Offices.’

July 21, 2014 11:00 am

Author:  Joshua Levitt

A screenshot of a Hamas diagram, filmed as part of an IDF video from 2009's Operation Cast Lead, showing how weapons are hidden by mosques. Photo: IDF / Screenshot.

A screenshot of a Hamas diagram, filmed as part of an IDF video from 2009′s Operation Cast Lead, showing how weapons are hidden by mosques. Photo: IDF / Screenshot.

Contrary to international rules of warfare, Hamas has commandeered a large hospital in Gaza City as its “de facto headquarters,” the Washington Post reported.

Buried eight paragraphs in, The Post‘s correspondent, William Booth, wrote on July 15:

“At the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, who represents the crumbling ‘unity government’ in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.”

Last week, The Post also reported, and also included near the end of an article, how Hamas was hiding rockets inside of a mosque, also against international rules of war. On Friday, buried toward’s the end of The Post’s dispatch from the front, one of its correspondents reported actually seeing rockets being moved into the mosque during Thursday’s five-hour humanitarian ceasefire:

“During the lull, a group of men at a mosque in northern Gaza said they had returned to clean up the green glass from windows shattered in the previous day’s bombardment. But they could be seen moving small rockets into the mosque.”

According to international rules of military engagement,  civilian public and religious buildings cannot to be used to shield weapons, but that has been a long-held Hamas tactic in Gaza.

On Thursday, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said it discovered 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school it operated in Gaza.

UNRWA said the rockets were discovered during a “regular inspection” and that it immediately “informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.”

The UNRWA came under criticism on social media for handing the rockets back to the “relevant parties,” who readers interpreted as being the Hamas militants who hid the arms in the school.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

With  Interference from Breaking News from the battle fields in the Ukraine and the Muslim World – the US and Russia are at Cold War level; Israel has already 20 dead (two civilians) and dozens wounded – Fareed Zakaria on CNN/Global Public Square did his best this Sunday July 20, 2014, to try to make sense from the present global wars.
I will try to reorganize the material into a neat tableau that can be viewed as a whole.

Fareed’s own introduction was about what happened in recent years is a “democratization of violence” that created an asymmetry like in Al Qaeda’s 9/11 where each of their one dollar generated the need for  7 million dollars to be spent by the US in order to counter-react. Thus, before, it was armies of States that were needed to have a war – now everyone can cause it with a pauper’s means.

Then he continued by saying that this is NOT what happened in Ukraine. There Putin was trying to fake it, by using his resources large State resources to create from former Russian soldiers a “rebel force in the Ukraine.”  The Kremlin is operating the rebels in a situation where the military expenditures by Russia, which are 35 times larger then those of the Ukraine, take care of the expenditures of this war.

But where Vladimir Putin miscalculated – it is that he did not realize that when he takes the ginny of Nationalism out of his dark box, he will never be able to cause it to go back. Putin unleashed both – Russian and Ukrainian Nationalism and it might be that by now he is no boss over the outcome anymore.

Let us face it – G.W. Bush played a similar game in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US will not be  master in the Middle East anymore.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was asked on the program what should Obama do?

He thinks this is a historical defining moment that allows still to Putin to redeem himself. It is for him – rather then somebody else – to call for an International tribunal and allow open investigation by telling the pro-Russians in the Ukraine, whom he supported and provided them with arms, that they crossed the line.  Brzezinski says this is a situation for Europe like it was before WWII.

The issue is that the Europeans are not yet behind the US. London is a Las Vegas for the Russians, France supplies them military goods, it was a German Chancellor before Merkel who made Europe dependent on Rusian gas.
Without being clearly united behind the US, the West will get nowhere.

On the other hand – Russia, seeing the sanctions coming, sees the prospect of becoming a China satellite if sanctions go into effect. Not a great prospect for itself either.

So, the answer is Obama leadership to be backed by the Europeans and Putin making steps to smooth out the situation and redeem himself. This is the only way to save the old order.

Steven Cohen, Professor on Russia at Princeton: The US is in a complicated situation by having backed fully the Ukrainian government.

It is the US that pushed Putin to take his positions. The Ukraine is a divided country and the story is not just a recent development. Putin cannot just walk away from the separatists in the Ukraine – they will not listen to him. The reality in the Ukraine, as per Professor Cohen, is very complex and there are no good guys there – basically just a complex reality that was exploited from the outside.

Christa Freeland, a famous journalist, who is now a Canadian member of Parliament, and traveled many times to the Ukraine, completely disagrees with Cohen and says a US leadership is imperative.

Our feeling is that all this discussion goes on as if it were in a vacuum – the true reality is that in the Globalized World we are far beyond the post WWII configuration that was just Trans-Atlantic with a Eurasian Continental spur going to China and Japan.  What has happened since is the RISE OF THE REST OF THE WORLD – with China, india, Brazil, and even South Africa, telling the West that besides dealing with Russia the West must deal with them as well !!
 The BRICS meeting in Fortaleza (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) where this week they established a $50 Billion alternative to the World Bank and a $100 Billion alternative to the IMF, ought to be part of the negotiation in the US and at the EU Member States  when talking about a post-Ukraine-flare-up World. The timing may have been coincidental – but the build-up was not.

These days there is the celebration of 70 years (1–22 July 1944) of the establishing of the Bretton Woods agreements system that created the old institutions that can be changed only with the help of US Congress – something that just will not happen. Those are the World Bank and the IMF – but In the meantime China has become the World’s largest economy and they still have less voting power at the World Bank then the three BENELUX countries.
The BRICS do not accept anymore the domination of the US dollar over their economies. If nothing else they want a seat at the table, and detest the fact that three out of five are not even at the UN Security Council.

So, the New World Order will have to account for this Rise of the Rest having had the old order based just on the West.

   Further on today’s program, Paul Krugman a very wise man, a Nobel Prize holder in Economics, was brought in to show  a quick take on the economy. He made it clear that there is an improvement but it is by far not enough.

It is more half empty then half full because by now it should have been better. But he stressed that despite the interference, Obamacare works better and ahead of expectations. Even premiums rise slower then before.

Yes, there are some losers, but this is a narrow group of young and healthy, but people that were supposed to be helped are helped.

On energy – yes – renewable costs are lower then expected.

Obama’s grade? Over all B or B-, but on what he endured from the opposition A-. Yes, we can trust Obama to decide the correct moves – and on International and Foreign Policy the White House has freer hands then in Internal, National, policy. His presidency is the most consequential since Ronald Reagan – whatever we think of Reagan – but in Obama’s case, he will leave behind  a legacy of the country having been involved in less disasters, but leaving behind more achievements – be those in health-care, environment, finances, energy, migration, etc. then any President of the last 40 years. But where does this leave him in relation to the Rest of the World?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

GLOSSARY

CCAC
COP
ECOWAS
GWP
HFCs
HLA
OECD
SLCPs
SAP
SNAP
UNEA
UNEP
UNFCCC
WHO
Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants
Conference of the Parties
Economic Community of West African States
Global warming potential
Hydrofluorocarbons
CCAC High-level Assembly
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Short-lived Climate Pollutants
Scientific Advisory Panel
Supporting National Planning for Action on SLCPs
United Nations Environment Assembly
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
World Health Organization

 


CCAC Bulletin
· · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC)
PDF format
Adobe Reader PDF
Volume 172 Number 16 – Sunday, 20 July 2014
SUMMARY OF THE WORKING GROUP MEETING OF THE CLIMATE AND CLEAN AIR COALITION TO REDUCE SHORT-LIVED CLIMATE POLLUTANTS
16-17 JULY 2014
The Working Group meeting of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) convened in Paris, France, from 16-17 July 2014. The meeting was attended by more than 90 participants, representing state and non-state partners of the CCAC, its Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), the CCAC Secretariat and observers.

Over the two days of the meeting, the Working Group heard updates on partners’ activities and considered new initiatives. It approved requests by two new organizations to join the Coalition, bringing the total number of partners to 93. The Working Group also discussed preparations for the upcoming CCAC High-level Assembly (HLA) and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, both of which will be held in New York in September 2014. The SAP updated the Working Group on its work. The CCAC also discussed its vision for moving forward and strategies for engaging partners and increasing capacities.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CCAC

The CCAC is a voluntary international coalition of governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which focuses on addressing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). The CCAC was created in February 2012 by Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden and the US, together with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It is open to countries and non-state actors wishing to join the coalition, and currently consists of 93 partners with 40 country partners and 53 non-state partners.

SLCPs include black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These pollutants have a near-term warming influence on the climate, and, in many cases, are also harmful air pollutants that affect human health, agriculture and ecosystems. The objectives of the CCAC include raising awareness of impacts and transformative mitigation strategies of SLCPs. It also seeks to: enhance and develop new national and regional actions; promote best practices and showcase successful efforts; and improve scientific understanding of SLCP impacts and mitigation strategies.

INITIATIVES: The CCAC has approved 10 initiatives. Its seven sectoral initiatives include:

  • accelerating methane and black carbon reductions from oil and natural gas production;
  • addressing SLCPs from agriculture;
  • mitigating SLCPs and other pollutants from brick production;
  • mitigating SLCPs from municipal solid waste;
  • promoting HFC alternative technology and standards;
  • reducing black carbon emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines; and
  • reducing SLCPs from household cooking and domestic heating.

The CCAC also has three cross-cutting initiatives on: financing mitigation of SLCPs; regional assessments of SLCPs; and supporting national planning for action on SLCPs (SNAP).

GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE: The CCAC institutional structure includes the HLA, Working Group, Steering Committee, SAP and Secretariat.

The HLA consists of ministers of state partners and heads of non-state partners. It meets at least once a year to provide strategic guidance and leadership to the CCAC. The Working Group includes focal points from each CCAC partner. It convenes at least twice a year to oversee activities.

The CCAC also has a Steering Committee composed of the two Working Group Co-Chairs, four state partners, one representative of international organizations and one NGO representative. The Steering Group meets every month to provide oversight support and recommendations to the HLA and Working Group. Current members of the Steering Group are Nigeria, Sweden, Canada, Jordan, Mexico, the US, the World Bank and the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

The CCAC Secretariat is hosted by UNEP in its Division of Technology, Industry and Economics in Paris, France. The SAP consists of 14 scientists, including the UNEP Chief Scientist.

REPORT OF THE CCAC WORKING GROUP MEETING

OPENING: On Wednesday morning, 16 July, Co-Chair Annika Markovic (Sweden) opened the CCAC Working Group meeting. She highlighted upcoming milestones, including the HLA and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, both to take place in New York in September 2014. She also identified the need to agree on a new initiative focusing on the health sector and urban air pollution, and consider the way forward beyond the September meetings. She welcomed Kenya, India and the Philippines which had been invited to observe the meeting together with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Ligia Noronha, UNEP, expressed satisfaction that the CCAC was more than a “coalition of the willing” and has shown itself to be a “coalition of the working.” She stressed the timeliness of the Working Group meeting. Regarding the way forward, she identified HFCs, waste and kerosene as important issues that need to be addressed.

UPDATE ON PARTNERSHIP AND CCAC: New partners: On Wednesday morning, Co-Chair Bahijjahtu Abubakar (Nigeria) reported on new partners that had joined the CCAC since the previous Working Group meeting in April (WG/JUL2014/2). The Working Group approved the applications of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement to join the CCAC, bringing the total number of partners to 93.

Partners in Action: CCAC partners presented on new data, achievements and opportunities.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted the main findings of the report “The Cost of Air Pollution: Health Impacts of Road Transport,” released in May 2014. She explained that new data from WHO shows that the number of deaths related to outdoor air pollution is much higher than previously believed, estimated at 3.5 million in 2012.

The OECD underscored that the economic cost of deaths from outdoor pollution in OECD countries amounted to approximately US$1.6 trillion in 2010. She noted that while the number of deaths caused by air pollution has reduced by 3.5% in some OECD countries, 14 of the 34 OECD members have shown worse statistics in this regard.

The OECD underscored the contribution of road transport to outdoor air pollution, saying its role has been particularly critical in countries such as India and China. She outlined actions to reduce pollution identified in the report, including: removing incentives to purchase diesel cars; maintaining and strengthening regulatory regimes; implementing more ambitious climate mitigation actions; continuing research on the economic value of morbidity impacts of air pollution; and paying attention to the most vulnerable populations.

Presenting on national actions, Chile noted that over 4,000 premature deaths are estimated to be caused by air pollution with transport as the most critical sector. He said the Chilean Government intends to establish a 2015-2019 strategy, including on sustainable heating and transport programmes.

Regarding the CCAC, Chile reported on work launched to address heavy-duty emissions in ports, municipal solid waste, methane and brick production. He said future steps include encouraging behavioral change, reducing housing energy demand and developing cleaner heating technologies. On the transport sector, he noted the development of retrofit and freight programmes.

Mali drew attention to important opportunities to reduce SLCPs in Mali and reported on national initiatives addressing, inter alia: emissions from heavy-duty diesel; air pollution in Bamako and other major cities; wood stoves; and black carbon emissions from open burning in agriculture.

Business for Social Responsibility emphasized the importance of private sector engagement to make CCAC a “coalition of winning.” He underscored the need to communicate in a way that is more accessible for business, saying issues should be framed in a way that speaks to narrow business interests. He proposed preparing short reports that concentrate on essential issues and business interests.

Business for Social Responsibility further highlighted the importance of engaging private sector coalitions in the CCAC discussions. He highlighted the diversity of the business sector, emphasizing the need to identify the most effective ways of engaging with it, for example, by taking into consideration the market share of involved organizations.

Switzerland announced a contribution of CHF2 million to the CCAC over a three-year period until 2017. Mexico underscored initiatives on black carbon and brick production in a national strategy and drew attention to increasing cooperation within Latin America on SLCPs.

Bangladesh reported on new national legislation on brick production criteria and a regulation on HFCs. He also drew attention to cooperation between Bangladesh and the World Bank on clean air and sustainable development. Sweden highlighted work in the Arctic Council to reduce black carbon and methane emissions, and announced a new contribution of SEK3 million to the CCAC.

 ClimateWorks Foundation highlightedthe role of non-carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gases in achieving the 2°C climate temperature target. She noted that a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 and a 80% reduction by 2075 will lead to an average of 3.4°C of warming. She underscored calculations showing that reducing methane emissions by 26% by 2030, black carbon by 20%, F-gases by 49% and nitrous oxide by 7% can achieve important progress towards the 2°C target in the near-term, if quick action is taken.

Côte d’Ivoire reported on the set-up of an inter-ministerial committee to work on SLCPs with increasing interaction between different ministries on environment, agriculture, health and communication, contributing to increased public awareness of SLCP impacts.  He also noted a national alliance for clean cook stoves. The Russian Federation highlighted the St. Petersburg Initiative launched at the Baltic Sea Forum in April 2013. He explained that the initiative focuses on air quality and sustainable maritime transportation.

The US underscored the CCAC as a vital venue for exchanging experience on SLCPs. He reported that the US has recently launched a national methane strategy. Morocco announced the creation of a national charter for sustainable development, and the task force meeting to be held in Rabat in September 2014. She highlighted this as an occasion for multiple stakeholders to meet, particularly on air pollution, and invited CCAC partners to attend.

OECD said the OECD environmental review, which takes place every five years, has been extended to some non-OECD countries such as Brazil, China and South Africa. She highlighted further research on the social costs of energy taxation and on promoting greater private sector engagement in low carbon transportation. She explained that CCAC partners could benefit from this review and methodology.

Ethiopia highlighted national action on cook stoves and solid waste. India highlighted the importance of black carbon emissions and reported that work has already been undertaken in most sectors to address: improved design of brick kilns; alternative uses for crop residues so that they are not burnt in the fields; and bio-gas generation as well as bio-methanation or composting of municipal solid waste.

India further called for greater opportunities to share experiences, in particular, to address black carbon and to consider low-cost particulate traps to reduce particulate emissions from diesel vehicles, fuel quality upgrade and fuel efficiency norms. He also stressed that, for a paradigm shift, a new breakthrough is necessary. Kenya reported work on many of the mentioned areas and expressed interest in sharing their experiences.

Nigeria announced new investments in solar energy from the Clean Technology Fund. He also highlighted a Presidential initiative to provide a million clean cook stoves by November 2014.

Outreach: On outreach and partners in action (WG/JUL2014/3), Co-Chair Markovic highlighted CCAC engagement in the context of:  the Abu Dhabi Ascent in preparation for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit; Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All); and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for enhanced Action (ADP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Co-Chair Abubakar noted a forthcoming ADP workshop on non-CO2 greenhouse gases in October and drew attention to increasing interaction between the CCAC and the UNFCCC, emphasizing that the two processes are complementary. She also reported on various other outreach activities.

The CCAC Secretariat emphasized the importance of visibility and reported on discussions in Abu Dhabi between Coalition partners and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She highlighted the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) as a great opportunity for CCAC partners to discuss air quality. She also noted media roundtables with journalists and a green room event on the CCAC held during the UNEA.

The CCAC Secretariat also emphasized the 20th session of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, as an important outreach opportunity.

Drawing attention to the agreed template for CCAC partners to share information about their activities, the CCAC Secretariat noted submissions from 15 partners and invited more of them to submit information on their activities using the template. Co-Chair Markovic stressed the importance of collecting and disseminating stories on action by CCAC partners. She encouraged partners to share information on their activities with the Coalition and others.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL’S CLIMATE SUMMIT MILESTONE FOR CCAC: This issue was considered on Wednesday morning and afternoon.

Cynthia Scharf, UN Secretary-General’s Office, updated participants on preparations for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit (WG/JUL2014/5). She commended the CCAC as an “exciting partnership,” stressing the role of the SLCP agenda in showing that results are feasible and giving people hope that progress towards the 2°C climate target is possible.

Scharf reported that all heads of state have been invited to the Summit, along with heads of business, the private sector, financial sector and NGOs. She highlighted the Summit’s two goals of mobilizing political will for the 2015 Paris climate agreement and catalyzing ambitious action on the ground given that the new climate agreement will only apply from 2020 onwards.

On the structure of the Summit, Scharf explained that the morning will consist of statements by heads of state in three parallel plenary sessions. In the afternoon, sessions focusing on multilateral and multi-stakeholder action announcements will take place on each of the 10 Action Areas identified in the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, including SLCPs. She explained that in parallel, thematic sessions will be held on science, co-benefits, economic case for action and voices from the frontlines.

Questions were raised concerning, inter alia: the role of ministers; criteria for allocating countries to the various sessions; time allocated for heads of state to speak; how to help heads of states to choose which session to attend; and links to the UNFCCC process. Scharf clarified that statements by heads of state will be limited to less than five minutes and countries will be allocated to the three parallel plenaries based on alphabetical order or UN protocol. She said countries that are not invited to chair sessions may choose freely the sessions they wish to attend in the afternoon.

Scharf stressed that the objective of the Summit is to engage heads of state, but that there will be opportunities for ministers to participate in private meetings. She noted that while there is no formal link between the UNFCCC and the Summit, the objective is to build political momentum around climate change. She specified that the UNFCCC parties will decide whether to use the Chair’s summary of the Summit as a contribution to the UNFCCC negotiations.

CCAC Initiatives for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit: Participants presented on potential initiatives for the CCAC to showcase at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit.

On HFC Phase Down, one of the lead partners underscored that while HFCs are not dangerous for the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases and their emissions are growing rapidly. He added that due to their high global warming potential (GWP), the increase in HFCs can cancel the impact of climate change mitigation efforts addressing CO2 emissions.

The lead partner noted that discussions on global HFC phase down currently focus on four deliverables: refrigerant management; reducing emissions in the cold-food chain; public procurement of climate friendly alternatives; and global phase down of production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

On the Green Freight Programme, one of the lead partners highlighted “significant” stakeholder engagement after the call to action at the HLA in Warsaw in 2013 and explained that work has started in the US, Canada, Mexico, Bangladesh and Vietnam. He noted that the objective is to promote, enhance and scale up green freight programmes. As a deliverable, he proposed engaging high-level industry and government sign up and implementation of the action plan.

On the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, one of the lead partners highlighted upstream methane emissions as one of the four key areas of climate change mitigation identified by the International Energy Agency. He outlined ongoing efforts to engage companies in this public-private partnership through Memoranda of Understanding, and called for governments and companies with connections to the relevant companies to support the launch.

On the Municipal Solid Waste Initiative, one of the lead partners emphasized landfills as the third largest anthropogenic source of methane emissions and an important source of black carbon. He identified the need to improve waste management through proven technologies and move cities up in the “waste hierarchy.”  Reporting that 26 cities currently participate in the initiative and the goal is to engage 50 cities by 2016, he said replication would be driven by collaboration between cities and linkages with national governments.

On Agriculture, one of the lead partners explained that the aim is to share and implement best practices for minimizing SLCPs from agriculture in a way that ensures climate change mitigation benefits and enhances food security. He identified livestock, paddy rice and open burning in agriculture as the three focus areas. He also invited participants to assist in the designation of a “champion case” to be highlighted at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit under the Agriculture Action Area.

The World Bank presented on the Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF), saying the initial focus of this pilot project is on methane and on maximizing the involvement of the private sector.

Speaking for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Co-Chair Abubakar informed the Working Group of a statement that ECOWAS intends to deliver at the Climate Summit, underscoring the impact of indoor air pollution on deaths in ECOWAS countries and emphasizing the goal of focusing on clean cooking and phasing out kerosene lighting. She also noted the intention of ECOWAS to commend the work of the CCAC and suggest the establishment of a regional CCAC Working Group.

Following discussion, Co-Chair Markovic noted the plan to present the initiatives on oil and gas, HFCs, green freight and municipal solid waste during the Action Area on SLCPs at the Climate Summit.

Outreach: Côte d’Ivoire presented on a communications plan for the Summit and HLA. He noted the intention to draw attention to SLCPs through opinion editorials before the Summit. He outlined plans, inter alia, for a CCAC press release in context of the HLA. He also noted plans for: a press briefing at the UN Climate Summit media room; photos and stories from the Assembly and Summit in social media; UNEP-DTIE photo exhibit outside the UN headquarters; and a launch of a health and air pollution campaign on 24 September 2014.

NEXT HIGH-LEVEL ASSEMBLY: Participants discussed the next HLA, focusing on the proposed agenda (WG/JUL2014/7). They addressed, inter alia, private sector engagement; key deliverables for the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and for the CCAC more broadly; announcements on domestic commitments; and engagement of new partners and observers.

SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY PANEL: This issue was considered on Thursday morning, 17 July.

Update on SAP work: The Working Group considered an update on SAP work and plans. SAP member Johan Kuylenstierna, University of York and Stockholm Environment Institute, presented on the SAP’s role in finalizing the CCAC’s Time to Act report. He emphasized the need to communicate the importance of addressing SLCPs for near-term climate change and public health, as well as food and energy security.

Kuylenstierna explained, inter alia, that: the net total impact of black carbon remains almost the same compared to the previous year; shifts in rainfall patterns remain a significant challenge for livelihoods; and uncertainties concerning the influence of aerosols remain significant. He highlighted key messages from the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change regarding SLCPs, including the evaluation of metrics. He explained that the use of GWP risks being misleading in the case of SLCPs and that the AR5 does not endorse any particular time horizon or metric.

SAP members also re-emphasized that the CCAC’s focus on SLCPs does not substitute CO2 mitigation, but acts as a complementary effort to tackle climate change with public health, ecosystem and other air quality benefits, as set out in the Coalition Framework.

On health and SLCPs, Andy Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlighted the powerful links between black carbon and ozone depletion as a major cause of death. A.R. Ravishankara, University of Colorado, briefed the Coalition on latest HFC research, as released in the Ozone report of WMO/UNEP. Concerning freight, he noted that methane leakage is critical and indicated that rules for chemicals trade tend to become stricter.

During discussion, SAP members also noted a forthcoming SLCP research agenda briefing, which will serve as outreach towards other scientific experts and further the work of the CCAC, notably through the development of a roster of experts to bridge some knowledge gaps. Briefing notes on the economic case, kerosene lamps are also being prepared by SAP.

Issues raised during discussion included: the choice of metrics; communications strategies for the UNFCCC COP in Lima; linkages between SLCPs and health; the relationship between fracking and SLCPs; improvement of the CCAC website; and recruitment of a new scientific expert to the CCAC Secretariat.

SAP members responded by, inter alia, clarifying differences between GWP and global temperature potential and the impact of different time horizons. They recognized that the Kyoto Protocol uses GWP and that changing the metrics would be difficult. They noted the rapidly changing conditions of fracking procedures and investments, while pointing out the need to address linkages between health and SLCPs through an economic perspective.

SAP membership and roster of experts: On the SAP membership rotation plan (WG/JUL2014/9), SAP members recalled that the panel currently has only 14 instead of 15 members as indicated in its terms of reference. They recommended that an expert with a background in agriculture should fill this vacancy. They also suggested the expansion of the SAP number of experts through the creation of an extended list of experts available for consultation as a roster of experts (WG/JUL2014/10).

It was also noted that six SAP members are reaching the end of their two-year term. The Working Group agreed to renew the term of the other six SAP members, if they wish to remain in the SAP. The issue of SAP membership will be considered further at the next Working Group meeting in September.

The Working Group concluded the discussion by emphasizing the overarching goal of the CCAC to focus on the benefits of significantly curbing SLCPs for fighting climate change and that this should remain the guiding principle of the Coalition’s work. One participant stated that “magnitude matters more than the metrics,” with which SAP members agreed.

VISION FOR MOVING FORWARD: On Thursday morning, the Working Group discussed the CCAC vision for moving forward (WG/JUL2014/6).

INITIATIVES: On Thursday morning, the Working Group considered proposed new initiatives. Co-Chair Markovic explained that lead partners oversee the development and implementation of initiatives. Countries that are not coalition members can join initiatives as actors but do not become coalition members. She noted that 10 initiatives have been approved thus far and that all new initiatives are first reviewed and then approved by the Working Group. She also explained that activities under initiatives can be funded through funding requests.

WHO presented on an initiative focusing on realizing health benefits from SLCPs in cities (WG/JUL2014/11 and WG/JUL2014/12). He highlighted that: more than seven million people die annually from air pollution; its role in causing heart disease and strokes is not well known; and the local healthcare sector could play a more active role in providing advice on best ways to address SLCPs. Justifying the focus on the local-level, he underscored the importance of cities as sources of air pollution, especially in developing countries.

WHO also noted that many relevant policies, such as those on waste management and transport, involve local-level decision-making. He explained that the initiative aims to support policy choices and behaviors that realize SLCP reductions and maximize health benefits in cities, and equip urban health and development sectors with knowledge, tools, strengthened capacity, collaborative frameworks and awareness-raising. WHO noted that the initiative will develop tools for assessment, monitoring and evaluation, and disseminate results to city networks.

Norway emphasized that this “transformative” initiative will bring local-level benefits to developing counties in addition to addressing climate change. She noted the emphasis on capacity building at many levels, highlighting that the initiative will also empower poor and affected people, helping them to avoid exposure to air pollution.

During discussion, many participants commended the initiative and some expressed interest in joining it. The Working Group approved the proposal as a concept and agreed that a revised proposal will be presented at its September meeting along with a funding proposal.

The World Bank, with the ClimateWorks Foundation, presented the main findings of the report on climate-smart development, which examines the multiple benefits of policies related to transportation and energy efficiency in industry and buildings in different country-contexts. Focusing on Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the US and the European Union, the report shows, through a quantitative analysis, that emission reductions and economic development can be complementary.

UNEP underscored opportunities to engage with the Global Environment Facility to develop projects on SLCPs, highlighting projects on smart agriculture, urban sustainable policies, air conditioning and refrigeration.

In the afternoon, participants considered a new initiative model, governance and process for CCAC (WG/JUL2014/13). Canada and the US reported on the work of the task force dedicated to this issue, noting that the proposal aims to enhance the CCAC’s efficiency by simplifying procedures for funding and revision of proposals. The Working Group approved the proposal with agreement to address minor issues at a later stage.

STRATEGIC DISCUSSION ON ENGAGING PARTNERS AND INCREASING CAPACITIES: This issue was taken up on Thursday afternoon.  The Working Group considered how the CCAC can engage the private sector more systematically, including proposed specific goals for private sector engagement (WG/JUL2014/14). It agreed to the private sector engagement plan as proposed by the CCAC Secretariat.

The Working Group also considered the proposed tasks of the Capacity Strengthening Advisory Group and participation in the group (WG/JUL2014/15). During discussion, participants stressed, inter alia, the need for strong donor presence in the group, as well as participation by developing countries and international organizations with experience in capacity development. The full composition of the Working Group will be considered at the Working Group meeting in September.

The Working Group considered an update on SNAP institutional strengthening activities to support CCAC developing country partners to further coordinate and scale up activities to reduce SLCPs and increase their participation in CCAC activities and decision-making. During discussion, it was noted that 14 developing countries have expressed interest in participating in this initiative. Participants also highlighted the need to take into consideration lessons from similar activities under the Montreal Protocol and other agreements.

HOUSEKEEPING: On Thursday afternoon, the Working Group considered various housekeeping issues, including: update on the CCAC Secretariat staffing (WG/JUL2014/16); overview of the CCAC Trust Fund (WG/JUL2014/16); invitation for pledges to the Trust Fund; review and approval of the compiled document with all Coalition decisions on partnership (WG/JUL2014/17); CCAC meeting dates in 2015 (WG/JUL2014/18), including possible additional HLAs in 2014 and in 2015; preparations for the mid-term evaluation; update on CCAC Annual Progress Report; and launch plans for a new website (WG/JUL2014/19).

The Working Group also considered a draft revision to the coalition framework (WG/JUL2014/8), identifying the need to insert some further revisions, including on extending the CCAC mandate beyond 2017 and defining a new deadline. It also discussed composition of the CCAC Steering Committee, with the objective that the new Steering Committee will start working after the HLA in September.

CLOSE OF THE MEETING: Co-Chair Markovic thanked her Co-Chair, participants, the CCAC Secretariat and interpreters for their work during the meeting. She said she looks forward to having the CCAC featured prominently in the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September and closed the meeting at 6:00pm.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Evening Edition: ‘Very high possibility’ of Gaza invasion, Israeli official says and other headlines for this evening, Wed, Jul 16, 2014.

By Sudarsan Raghavan,, William Booth and Ruth Eglash July 16 at 6:56 PM – for The Washington Post.

JERUSALEM — On a day rattled by a fury of air attacks, Israel and Hamas found themselves Wednesday searching for a way forward, with a senior Israeli military official declaring that a ground invasion of Gaza was a “very high possibility.”

Israel announced that it will observe a unilateral “humanitarian truce” for five hours Thursday to allow Gaza residents to stock up on food and other supplies and let aid reach civilians. The pause in fighting was requested by the United Nations, said another military official, army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

It was unclear whether Hamas would also hold its fire. The militant group rejected an earlier cease-fire proposed by Egypt, and a top Hamas leader declared that the Islamist militant group is alone in the world as it battles Israel.

Hamas continued to shower rockets Wednesday into southern and central Israel, including Tel Aviv, underscoring the extent to which the militants believe they still have the military capability to persuade Israel to accept their terms, analysts said.

“From their rationale, they are holding strong, as if they have nothing to lose,” said Miri Eisen, a former Israeli army intelligence official. She added, “If they feel they have nothing to lose, they can continue this for a long time.”

That attitude is increasing pressure on Israel. Hundreds of Israeli airstrikes have killed hundreds of Palestinians but have done little to stop Hamas rockets from striking Israeli towns. Human rights activists are accusing Israel of killing innocent civilians and possibly committing war crimes. Egypt, once a reliable ally, no longer seems to have the negotiating clout it once had.

All this is generating discussions — within Israeli political and military circles and on television, radio and editorial pages — of a possible ground invasion of Gaza in the coming days. In Tel Aviv, a high-ranking Israeli military official told reporters Wednesday that there was “a very high possibility” of such an operation, adding, “If you want to efficiently fight terrorism, you need to have boots on the ground.”

More than 113 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday, according to the Israeli military.

By Wednesday night, 222 people had been killed in Gaza during the nine-day operation, including 49 minors and 24 women, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,600 people have been wounded in Gaza, the officials said.

Among the latest casualties were four Palestinian children, all younger than 12, who were killed by an Israeli missile or shell while playing on a beach in Gaza near a hotel used by foreign journalists, according to witnesses and Palestinian officials. The four boys were cousins. Seven others — adults and children — were reported wounded in the strike.

The Israeli army, calling the incident tragic, said the target had been a Hamas operative.

President Obama addressed the situation in brief White House remarks. Although he did not specifically mention the beach deaths, he said, “We are all heartbroken by the violence .?.?. especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza.” Obama said the United States would continue to “use all our diplomatic resources and relationships” to bring about a lasting cease-fire. “In the meantime,” he said, “we are going to support efforts to protect civilians in Israel and Gaza.”

 

Message to the Congregation: Israel

Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch

July 16, 2014

Dear Congregants:

 

I hope that you have been able to slow down a bit during the summer, and are finding some time for rest and relaxation.

 

As you know, it has been a tense and trying summer for Israelis. Many of us have family and friends in Israel, as well as children who are on summer programs. We continue to pray for their safety and well being.

 

I would like to emphasize the following basic values:

 

 

  1. Israel is on the front lines of the Western war against Islamic extremism that considers Israel to be an illegitimate presence in the Middle East. Israel deserves the political and moral support of all Western nations and freedom-loving people.
  1. Israeli military operations are defensive in nature. No country would – or should – allow missiles to be fired on its cities and towns. The indiscriminate firing on Israeli civilians is a war crime. Every single missile fired from Gaza constitutes a war crime. The Hamas use of Palestinian civilian human shields is a war crime.
  1. We have noted the extraordinary care employed by the Israel Defense Forces in avoiding civilian casualties. There is no other military in the world that takes such extensive precautions. At the same time we lament the suffering of innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire, and grieve for the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. They deserve better than Hamas. Hamas bears the primary political and moral responsibility for their senseless suffering.
  1. We condemn the savage kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
  1. We condemn the savage kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager in revenge. We are appalled that Jews could carry out such acts of terror.
  1. The discussion on the disproportionate numbers of Palestinian casualties relative to Israeli casualties is a moral outrage. Israel has invested billions of dollars in defensive capabilities – shelters, warning systems, civilian preparation and anti-missile technology (partially funded by US citizens). Israel does everything it can to prevent Palestinian civilian harm, including calling off bombing missions in mid flight if pilots perceive excessive risk to civilians nearby. The moral question is not whether casualties on one side are greater than the other. Rather, the question is whether the military action is proportional to the threat. Hamas rockets threaten most of Israel; they have reached as far as Haifa in the north. Millions of Israelis live under constant threat of missile attacks. In fact, many in Israel and its supporters worldwide consider the current Israeli measures not strong enough proportional to the threat.

Action

 

Traditionally, American Jews have helped Israel in times of crisis by donating funds and joining a solidarity mission to Israel. We encourage you to do both.

 

Accordingly, we have established an Israel Emergency Fund at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. If you would like to make a contribution, please send your check made out to Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, clearly marked for Israel Emergency Fund. You can also donate online with a credit card here www.swfs.org/donate/.  

 

Representatives of the synagogue board of trustees and Israel committee will decide upon the distribution of the funds. All of the money will be forwarded to worthy causes; none of the funds will be retained by the synagogue.

 

Also: SWFS has arranged a mission to Israel from October 17-22, 2014. Journalist Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land, a New York Times bestseller, will accompany us throughout our five days in Israel for a unique opportunity to engage Israeli and Palestinian leaders who shape events in the Middle East I urge you to consider joining. For mission information, contact Donna Levine or call 212-877-4050 x223.

 

If you would like additional talking points and links to media outlets, please email our Israel committee, chaired by Alan Scheiner, at SWFS Israel and ask to be added to the mailing list so that you will receive regular updates.

 

With continuing prayers for the peace of Jerusalem,

 

Ammi's signature

Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch

Senior Rabbi, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue

New York City

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Nothing Makes Hamas Happier Than Dead Palestinians.

Youth training at the Al-Futuwa program, where Hamas trains children to hate Israel. Photo: Paldf.net.

Youth training at the Al-Futuwa program, where Hamas trains children to hate Israel. Photo: Paldf.net.

Nothing plays better in the mainstream media these days than wailing Gazans, mourning their dead from Israeli missile strikes  responding to the unprovoked deluge of Hamas rockets on the Jewish state. As Ben Wedeman (CNN) recently reported from Jabalia, “There is no Iron Dome in Gaza to protect civilians.” But Gaza civilians most need protection from Hamas. Its leaders intentionally jeopardize their lives  by embedding rocket-launching and ammunition storage sites in schools, mosques and hospitals located in civilian neighborhoods.

In Gaza, recruits for martyrdom in the holy war against Israel are urged to gather on rooftops. They are instructed by their demented leaders to serve as a human shield against Israeli retribution for thousands of rockets that have been fired into the Jewish state during the past week. The designated locations for martyrdom are not random. Beneath the rooftops are Hamas command centers and tunnels, where leaders take refuge and weapons are stored.

According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: “This attests to the character of our noble, Jihad-fighting people who defend their rights and their homes with their bare chests and their blood.” He proudly cited the exemplary “martyr” Nizar Riyan, the senior Hamas leader during the 2009 Gaza war. Receiving a warning phone call from the IDF to evacuate his house, he chose to remain in place, thereby consigning his four wives, ten children and himself to martyrdom from the Israeli air strike that he knew was imminent.

Last Sunday, following rocket attacks on the Tel Aviv area, the IDF dropped leaflets in northern Gaza urging residents to evacuate their homes in advance of a retaliatory military strike to destroy embedded rocket launchers. After 4000 residents heeded the Israeli warning the Hamas Interior Ministry urged them to disregard “random messages to instill panic” and return “immediately” to their homes, the better to become human shields and gain world attention.

As Jeffrey Goldberg observed (Bloomberg, July 11), “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible.” Why not? Dead Palestinians “represent a crucial propaganda victory” for an inhumane regime that has abjectly failed to provide its own people with even the most minimal amenities of civilized life: safety, food, employment, education, medical care. (It is an irony seldom noted that Gazans are still admitted for treatment in Israeli hospitals.)  But Hamas leaders do not hesitate to protect themselves. They take refuge in a vast web of underground tunnels and shelters reserved for their exclusive use. Gaza civilians are expendable. Urged to become targets, their dead bodies are garishly paraded in public to stoke the Hamas cause.

As rockets fall on Israel the world grants Hamas immunity for its war crimes. Blaming the Jewish targets of Palestinian terrorism has long been a popular international trope. As the commissioner general of UNRWA, which invents Palestinian “refugees” by the millions to stay in business, recently declared: “I urgently call on the Israeli Security Forces to put an end to attacks against, or endangering, civilians . . . which are contrary to international humanitarian law.” About Hamas rockets targeting Israeli civilians he had nothing to say.

Palestinian suffering inflicted by cruel Israelis is the preferred worldwide narrative. Where better than Frankfurt, as a recent protest demonstrated, for Israel to be equated with Nazi Germany? With the cease-fire proposed by Egypt evidently crumbling, and Israeli retaliation for Hamas attacks resuming, the number of Palestinian martyrs is likely to increase. Nothing could make Hamas happier. Indeed, today’s death of four soccer-playing Palestinian boys in Gaza, struck by an Israeli missile, is certain to ratchet up rampage against Israeli retaliation for the unrelenting Hamas rocket attack.

Nobody summed up the situation more succinctly, and accurately, than Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who told Fox News: “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using civilians to protect their missiles.”

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy (Quid Pro Books).

 

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Israel’s UN Ambassador Calls for ‘Immediate’ Suspension of UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunness.

July 16, 2014 4:10 pm 12 comments

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN. Photo: UN Multimedia.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor called for the “immediate” suspension of a UN spokesperson on Tuesday.

The move came as Israel is in the midst of a full-flung campaign against terror group Hamas to end rocket fire from nearby Gaza.

Prosor asked for action to be taken against Chris Gunness of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, after the spokesman encouraged reporters to interview a professor with a history of supporting terror attacks against civilians.

In a letter to Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Prosor said, “Gunness, yet again abused his position by calling on reporters to interview Dr. Mads Gilbert, an outspoken proponent of terrorist attacks against civilians. In September 2001, Dr. Gilbert explicitly supported the ‘moral right’ of Al-Qaeda to perpetrate the 9/11 terrorist attacks against thousands of American civilians.”

In the letter, seen by The Algemeiner, Prosor included the text of a recent Twitter post from Gunness encouraging reporters to speak to Gilbert: “Great interviewee @ Shifa Hosp Gaza right now Prof Mads Gilbert +4790878740 call him 4 fatality & cas figs and atoms RT.” The message has since been deleted.

“Rather than denouncing Hamas’s targeting of innocent civilians, Mr. Gunness is shamelessly promoting an individual who shares Hamas’s morally reprehensible convictions,” Prosor said in his letter. “Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, deliberately embeds its military operations in residential areas and exploits its own civilian population as human shields. These actions constitute war crimes and should be condemned in no uncertain terms. In failing to do so, Mr. Gunness is ignoring Hamas’s abuse of the civilian population in Gaza and acting in opposition to UNRWA’s mandate.”

Prosor also accused Gunness of displaying “an ongoing pattern of anti-Israel bias,” adding, “he has abused his position to promote incitement against Israel and present a one-sided view of reality.”

Prosor said that on Monday, after Hamas fired a rocket at an electrical plant in Ashkelon cutting off power to 70,000 Gazans, “Mr. Gunness tweeted that the lights had gone out, conveniently omitting Hamas’s responsibility.”

“Israel supports UNRWA’s important humanitarian work; however, actions that encourage incitement undermine this work. UNRWA staff members have repeatedly failed to abide by the UN’s principles of neutrality and impartiality,” Prosor said.

“I ask that you immediately suspend Mr. Gunness while you investigate the matter. The integrity and impartiality of the UN demands that this matter be addressed expediently.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program – as reported by Irith Jawetz who participated at the UN in Vienna Compound July 15th Meeting .

 

The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and Search for Common Ground  invited us to attend a panel discussion titled “A Win-Win Solution for the Negotiations over Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was held on Tuesday, 15 July 2014 at 13:00 at the Vienna Center for Disarmament & Non Proliferation (VCDNP).

 
As P5+1 and Iran are meeting in Vienna at Foreign Ministers level to resolve the outstanding issues preventing a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before the 20 July deadline, a group of renown experts on the technical and political aspects of the negotiations have met at VCDNP to discuss and identify possible compromises.

 

Panelists: 
 
Dr. Frank von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security 
 
Mr. Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Coalition to reduce Nuclear Dangers, and the Director of Security Programs for Physicians for Social Responsibility.
 
Ambassador (ret.) William G. Miller, Senior Advisor for the US-Iran Program, Search for Common GroupHe is a Senior Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Middle East Institute. He is the co-Chairman of the Kyiv Mohyla Foundation of America and a Director of The Andrei Sakharov Foundation. He has also been a senior consultant for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

This was a very timely event, as the Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 group of Nations – the U.S., U.K., France. Germany, China, and Russia – spent the weekend in Vienna  discussing follow ups to the interim agreement reached between them and Iran in advance of this July 20th deadline.


At the start of the Panel discussion, it was announced that at that very moment Secretary of State John Kerry is giving his Press Conference before flying back to Washington to report to President Obama about the negotiations. He is willing to come back next weekend for the July 20-th continuation of the discussions.

———–

Ambassador Miller was the first speaker, and he gave a rather optimistic view of the situation. His presentation had more of a political nature.  In his presentation he said that the basic principles of the negotiations is to assure that Iran has no nuclear weapons . Iran has the capability, brain, expertise and knowhow but has no strategic moral or ethical reason to develop nuclear weapons to be used as weapons of mass destruction.
It is a fact, though, that the Iranians insist on use of peaceful nuclear energy – to what extent it is peaceful and how can the rest of the world be sure that it will be peaceful, this is why the negotiations have to succeed. Ambassador Miller is hopeful that, after 35 years of the current regime in Iran, those negotiations will result in a positive answer.
Ambassador Miller commended all the participating teams, the Press and Academia. First he mentioned the top quality Iranian team at the negotiations, many of the participants he knows personally. They were able, motivated, and anxious to find a solution. The US team, led by Secretary Kerry did a  remarkably good job, as did the rest of the teams. He commended the Press who were persistent – fully covered the negotiations and were very professional – and academia who helped with background information.
—————

Mr. Daryl G.Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association talked about a solution for the Iranian Uranium-Enrichment Puzzle. In his presentation he stressed that “Solutions that prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, lower the risk of yet another major conflict in the region, and still provide Iran with the means to pursue a realistic, peaceful nuclear program are within reach” – he said.
Progress has already been achieved on several key issues – stregthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at existing and undeclared sites.  …   Iran has agreed to modify its Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output, and a general framework has been developed to waive, and eventually lift, sanctions against Iran.   …  Nevertheless, the two sides have more work to do to bridge differences on the most difficult issue: limiting Iran’s uranium-enrichment capacity.As part of a comprehensive deal, Iran and the P5+1 have to agree on several steps to constrain Iran: limit uranium enrichment to levels of less than 5% – keep stocks of its enriched uranium near zero – and halt production-scale work at the smaller Fordow enrichment plant and convert it to research-only facility.

He shares Ambassador Miller’s hope and positive outlook that the negotiations will succeed. Anything less than success will be a catastrophe.

—————-
The last speaker was Dr. Frank von Hippel who is a Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.Dr. von Hippel gave a very technical presentation about the Possible elements of a compromise on Iran’s Nuclear Program.

Potential sources of fissile material from Iran’s nuclear energy program are:

1. Plutonium presence in reactor fuel (current issue is Arak reactor)

2. Iran’s centrifuge enrichment complex.

There are two stages in rationalizing the Current situartion:

Stage I

Iran currently has installed 18,000 IR-1 centrifuges  – the compromise would be:

1) to retire IR-1  and replace it with already installed IR-2ms to support research-reactor LEU needs.

2) Continued transparency for Iran’s centrifuge production – possibly as a template for enhanced transparency for centrifuge production worldwide.

3) Continued minimization of stocks of low enriched UF6.

Stage 1 will provide time to cool down an inflamed situation and would provide Iran and the West an opportunity for a cooler assessment of the costs and benefits of diferent possible paths.

In stage II, negotiations might agree on a solution currently beyond reach and also lay a base for a new global regime for enrichment.

Stage II

 

National or Multi-National enrichment? A global Issue.

National – Every  state has the right to enrich fuel for power reactor fuel. However today only Brazil, China, Iran, Japan and Russia have completely independent national civilian enrichment programs.

Multinational – Urenco (Germany, Netherland, UK) . Today Urenco owns the only operating U.S,. civilian enrichment plant.

Building in Flexibility for Iran:

1. Iran should have access to nuclear reactor and fuel vendors worldwide – to ensure that it is getting a good price and reliable delivery.

2. Iran could build up stockpile of fabricated fuel for Bushehr. That would take care of Iran’s fuel security concerns and make it easier for Iran to postpone a large domestic enrichment capacity or depend on a multinational enrichment plant – perhape equiped with Iranian centrifuges in another country in the Middle East.

Dr. von Hippel COPLIMENTED his theory with  charts.

The consensus at the end of the discussion was that the negotiations seem to go well, and all panelists, as well as some members of the audience expressed their hope that they will indeed succeed. Ambassador Miller even went as far as to state that Iran at the moment is the most stable nation in the region, and we have to take advantage of it, make sure the negotiation succeed,  and bring Iran back to the International community.

In the news today it was reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Washington to brief President Obama on the negotiations – rather then on a prior advertised new effort in the Israel-Palestine arena. He was hopeful, but also said there are still some points which need to be clarified.

==========================
Further last comment by SustainabiliTank editor – we add – taken from a Thom Friedman article about a different issue:
We accept that in the future the World true powers of today – The US, China, India, Russia, Japan and the EU – and we like to add Brazil as well – will have to meet their minds and harmonize what ought to be a global leadership for a safe future planet. Just ad hoc chaperoning specific issues will be proven to be not enough.

The way to find a solution to the issue of a nuclear Iran shows that in the globalized world of today there must be an international guiding force. But on this much more has to be written for the sake of Sustainability.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Second Iran-Iraq War and the American Switch

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

13 June 14

 

SEE ALSO: Obama ‘Urgently’ Considering Air Assault on Targets in Syria and Iraq

ran has decided to intervene directly in Iraq and has already sent fighters to the front, according to the Wall Street Journal, based on Iranian sources. It is alleged that Iranian special forces have helped the Iraqi army push back in Tikrit, the birth place of Saddam Hussein that was overrun earlier this week by ISIS, which captured the city’s police force. These reports come on the heels of President Hassan Rouhani’s pledge on Thursday that Iran would not stand by and allow terrorists to take over Iraq. The hyper-Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters are closing in on a major Shiite shrine in Samarra and have pledge to take Baghdad, the capital, itself.

Iran has allegedly supplied small numbers of advisers and even hired Afghan fighters to the Syrian regime, and encouraged Lebanon’s Hizbullah to intervene in Syria to prevent the fall of Homs to Sunni extremists. These Iranian interventions in Syria did shore up the al-Assad regime and reverse rebel momentum. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps may believe it can use the same tactics to roll back ISIS in Iraq. Iran is largely Shiite and has a Shiite religious ideology as the basis of the state. Iraq is 60% Shiite and the ruling government since 2005 has come from that community. Sunni Arabs in Iraq are probably only 17% or so, but had been the elite for most of Iraq’s medieval and modern history, until George W. Bush overthrew the predominantly Sunni Saddam Hussein regime and allowed the Shiites to come to power.

Iraqi Shiites predominate in Baghdad and parts south. Shiites are more like traditional Catholics in venerating members of the holy family and attending at their shrines. Contemporary Salafi Sunni Islam is more like the militant brand of Protestantism of the late 1500s that denounced intermediaries between God and the individual and actually attacked and destroyed shrines to saints and other holy figures, where pleas for intercession were made. The shrine in Samarra is associated with the 12th in the line of vicars of the Prophet Muhammad, called Imams in Shi’ism, Muhammad al-Mahdi, a direct descendant of the Prophet himself. Shiites have a special emphasis on a millenarian expectation that the Twelfth Imam will soon return to restore justice to the world (rather as Christians believe in the return of Christ). When the Samarra shrine was damaged by Sunni militants in 2006, it threw Iraq into civil war, in which 3000 civilians were being killed every month. Baghdad was ethnically cleansed by 2008 of most of its Sunnis, becoming a largely Shiite capital. ISIS wants to reverse that process. Baghdad was founded by the Abbasid caliphate, who claimed to be vicars of the Prophet, in 762 AD and is a symbol of the glories of early Islam. ISIS leaders are threatening also to destroy the shrine of Ali in Najaf and the shrine of Husain in Karbala (Najaf for Shiites is the equivalent of the Basilica of St. Peter for Catholics).

The specter of Iranian troops on Iraqi soil can only recall the first Iran-Iraq War.

From September of 1980, when Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded Iran’s oil-rich Khuzistan Province, until summer 1988 when Ayatollah Khomeini finally accepted an armistice, Iran and Iraq fought one of the Middle East’s longest and bloodiest wars. Its trench warfare and hidden naval encounters recalled the horrors of World War I, as did the Iraqi Baath government’s deployment of mustard gas against Iranian soldiers at the front and sarin gas against Kurdish civilians suspected of pro-Iranian sentiments.

The Reagan administration in the United States largely backed Iraq from 1983, when Reagan dispatched then Searle CEO Donald Rumsfeld to shake Saddam’s hand. This, despite Iraq being the clear aggressor and despite Reagan’s full knowledge of Iraqi use of chemical weapons, about which George Schultz at the State Department loudly complained until he was shushed. Then, having his marching orders straight, Schultz had the US ambassador to the UN deep-six any UN Security Council resolution condemning Iraq for the chemical weapons deployment. The US navy fought an behind the scenes war against Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf, becoming a de facto appendage of the Baath military.

Just because the Reagan administration was so Machiavellian, it also gave some minor support Iran in the war. Reagan stole anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry from the Pentagon storehouses and illegally sold them to Khomeini despite Iran being on the US terrorism watch list. He then had Iran pressure the Shiite militiamen in Lebanon to release American hostages. Reagan sent the money received from Iran to death squads in Nicaragua fighting the people’s revolution there against a brutal American-installed dictatorship. This money was sent to Nicaragua in defiance of the Boland Amendment passed by Congress forbidding US monies to go there. Ollie North, whom you see prevaricating on Fox News these days, was a bag man for the operation.

They may as well have broken into the National Archives Nick Cage style, broken out the original copy of the constitution, and put it through a shredder several times in a row till small confetti pieces were all that were left.

It is unclear how many people Saddam’s bloody war killed off. A quarter of a million on each side seems plausible. So many young men were part of a “missing generation” that the Iranian regime had to let women into the workforce and universities in very large numbers despite its preference for them to remain home and secluded. In Iraq, there were many widows, and some were forced to become low-status second wives, or single heads of household, or, among Shiites, temporary wives. Iraq depleted its currency reserves in the war and went into debt with Kuwait among others, then in 1990 invaded and tried to annex Kuwait. Saddam dealt with his creditors the way organized crime might deal with its.

In the looming second Iran-Iraq War, the US will be de facto allied with Iran against the would-be al-Qaeda affiliate (ISIS was rejected by core al-Qaeda for viciously attacking other militant vigilante Sunni fundamentalists in turf wars in Syria). The position of the US is therefore 180 degrees away from what it was under Reagan.

In fact, since ISIS is allegedly bankrolled by private Salafi businessmen in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Oil Gulf, the US is on the opposite side of all its former allies of the 1980s. In some ways, some of the alleged stagnation of US policy in the Middle East may derive from a de facto US switch to the Iranian side on most issues, at the same time that US rhetoric supports Iran’s enemies in Syria and elsewhere in the region.

It is possible that a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda-like groups in Iraq and Syria could clarify their budding new relationship and lead to a tectonic shift in US policy in the Middle East. The Indeed, Reuters says Iranian officials are offering the possibility of security cooperation with the us. One things seems clear. Without Iran, the US is unlikely to be able to roll by al-Qaeda affiliates and would-be affiliates in the Fertile Crescent, who ultimately could pose a danger to US interests.

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Oil strikes nine-month peak on Iraq violence.

MENAFN – AFP – 13/06/2014

 
 

(MENAFN – AFP) Global oil prices surged to fresh nine-month high points on Friday as traders eyed worsening violence in OPEC’s second biggest crude exporter Iraq.

Brent crude for July delivery soared to 114.69 per barrel in morning deals, touching the highest level since September 2013. It later stood at 113.57 in London afternoon deals, up 55 cents from Thursday, as traders booked profits.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July added 42 cents to 106.95 a barrel.

“Prices are still being driven up by the events in Iraq, where militants from the Sunni terrorist group ISIL have seized further territory and are now said to be just a few kilometres away from the capital, Baghdad,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

“The US is now considering air strikes by way of supporting the Iraqi armed forces in their fight against the ISIL. The Iraqi government increasingly appears to be losing control of the country.”

- Jihadists near Baghdad -

The Iraqi government bolstered Baghdad’s defences on Friday as jihadists pushed towards the capital and President Barack Obama said he was exploring all options to save Iraq’s security forces from collapse.

Predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran will combat the “violence and terrorism” of Sunni extremists who have launched an anti-government offensive in neighbouring Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani warned.

“This is an extremist, terrorist group that is acting savagely,” Rouhani said, without elaborating on what steps Tehran would take to thwart a bid by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to push toward Baghdad after seizing several cities and towns to the north.

The International Energy Agency meanwhile cautioned that oil supplies from Iraq may not be at immediate risk.

Iraq is the second biggest oil exporter in the 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after kingpin Saudi Arabia.

- IEA plays down impact -

“Concerning as the latest events in Iraq may be, they might not for now, if the conflict does not spread further, put additional Iraqi oil supplies immediately at risk,” the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly oil market report on Friday.

It pointed out that Iraq’s relatively small output from the north of the country has been off the market since March due to violence while output from the south has been on the rise and production has hit a 30-year high.

However the IEA, the energy monitoring and policy arm of the OECD group of advanced nations, pointed to the long-term importance of Iraq for the global energy market.

It calculated that “roughly 60 percent of the growth in OPEC crude production capacity for the rest of this decade will come from Iraq”.

The 12-nation oil cartel, which pumps one third of the world’s crude, earlier this week decided to hold their collective production target at 30 million barrels per day (bpd), where it has stood since late 2011, as they said the oil market was stable.

Oil producing nations have expressed their satisfaction with prices above 100 a barrel — where they have been for most of this year — as it brings them in sufficient revenue while appearing not to crimp growth in consuming nations.

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FURTHER ON THE OIL MARKET:

NPR NEWS

Militants’ Advance In Iraq Agitates Oil Markets

by

When Sunni militants began seizing broad swathes of territory across northern Iraq last week, global oil markets shrugged it off. After all, instability in Iraq is nothing new.

But that all changed on Wednesday, when the insurgents swept into the oil refinery town of Baiji, says Robert McNally, president of the Rapidan Group, an energy consulting firm. The price of oil climbed nearly 4 percent in just a few short days.

“This jaw-dropping blitz assault … and the threat it posed to the Baiji refinery, the Baiji electrical power plant, and really the stability of Iraq itself, just caused the market to panic,” McNally says.

Insurgents surrounded the refinery, but were not able to seize it. For now, it remains under government control, guarded by Iraqi special forces. The refinery is the largest in Iraq, but it’s used only for domestic purposes.

The real concern for the global markets — and the entire global economy — is about securing the flow of crude oil out of Iraq’s main oil fields. They are clustered around the city of Basra, in the far south of the country at the tip of the Persian Gulf. It’s a relatively long way from militant positions now.

But Amrita Sen, chief oil market analyst with Energy Aspects in London, says that distance doesn’t provide much relief, for two reasons.

“One, the militants are progressing towards the south very, very quickly,” Sen says. “And two, the Iraqi army’s complete inability to stop them … The fear factor is huge in the market at the moment.”

There’s also concern the Sunni militants’ all-out charge through Iraq could spark widespread sectarian violence, possibly pulling in regional players, says McNally.

“The specter now is one of a sort of broad fragmentation and disintegration in Iraq, which eventually could spill over to the south and to Iraq’s oil exports,” he says.

Jim Burkhard, head of global oil market research at IHS, says militants don’t have to occupy the oil fields; they can simply launch small attacks on the pipelines, much as they’ve done on export pipelines in the northern city of Kirkuk. But Burkhard says global oil markets would feel the pinch if anything happened to Iraqi exports.

“This summer we estimate the world will have about 2 to 2.5 million barrels per day of spare crude oil production capacity,” he says. “That’s the oil markets’ shock absorber. That’s how much we have to call on in case there’s a disruption. … Iraq exports about 2.5 million barrels per day, so that’s why the market is particularly sensitive to these fast-moving developments in Iraq right now.”

Iraq has the potential to double the amount of oil it exports each day, but the industry has been plagued with problems despite investment from western companies. Burkhard says the escalating violence not only adds to Iraq’s woes, it’s part of a broader geopolitical story that’s unfolding.

“The situation between Russia and Ukraine is not settled … Libya is in a very desperate situation right now; oil production is just a trickle,” Burkhard says. “There’s also concerns about Nigeria and Venezuala as well.”

President Obama said on Friday that if there are disruptions in Iraq’s oil supply, other producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack. But that will do little to calm market jitters that are driving up prices.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This is our first posting on food – we picked it because rhubarb is hardly known – but it can grow easily – even in city backyards – and is somewhat a dangerous plant because its leaves are poisonous. CUT OFF ANY GREEN PARTS – EAT ONLY THE BOILED PINK STALKS – and you make delicious food.

www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/dining/rhubarb-flaunts-its-savory-side.html?emc=edit_th_20140614&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=47157637&_r=0

 

Dining & Wine

Rhubarb Flaunts Its Savory Side.

Friday, JUNE 13, 2014

Photo

Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Photo

Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Are you ready for the rhubarb revolution?

I, for one, am eager to stand up with other rhubarb lovers who are tired of the suppression of the vegetable’s true, pucker-inducing nature. (Yes, it is a vegetable, not a fruit.) Rhubarb does not have to be sugared into submission to be delicious. “Sour power” is our battle cry.

My own rebellion came after years of following the sweetness status quo and baking the stalks into an array of pies, crumbles and cakes. As good as these classics are, they are not the only way to use the stridently tart stalks.

In fact, when rhubarb is used in savory dishes, its fruity tang becomes an asset much like citrus or pomegranate, without any annoying seeds. Rhubarb works especially well when paired with fatty meat. It slashes through the richness like lemon juice or vinegar, but has the added benefit of falling apart and thickening the sauce.

A piquant rhubarb butter sauce, softened with a drizzle of honey to smooth out the edges, is also a great partner for milky cheeses, eggs and certain vegetables. Once, while exploring the adage of “what grows together goes together,” I paired that rhubarb butter sauce with its seasonal sister, asparagus. It was a hit: bracing, earthy and a change from the usual hollandaise.

In this recipe, I combine rhubarb with chicken. I first stew the stalks with onions, garlic and a little white wine, then use the mix as a bed for braising the bird. The fat rendered by the chicken skin enriches the sauce, while the meat absorbs all the tangy flavors. I use a whole cutup chicken here, but feel free to use an equal weight of your favorite parts instead. Thighs and drumsticks work particularly well.

The only disadvantage to a savory rhubarb sauce is that as it cooks down, it loses its pinkness, turning drab beige. You need plenty of green garnishes on hand to perk it up. Herb sprigs work nicely, as do the tops from the spring onions (or scallions) used in the sauce. Red scallions are pretty here if you run across them.

You end up with a nuanced, spectacularly savory dish that just may revolutionize the way your dinner guests think about rhubarb.

Recipe: Skillet Chicken With Rhubarb

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 10th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Democrats See Winning Issue in Carbon Plan

By CARL HULSE and MICHAEL D. SHEAR

Several Democrats in competitive Senate races have supported an E.P.A. proposal to curb power-plant emissions, citing growing public support for action and perceptions that Republicans are anti-science.


Of Fish, Monsoons and the Future

By CHRIS BERDIK

Scientists are digitally tracking the links between human activity and the fragile ecosystem of Cambodia’s great lake.

And Even More on Climate Change

By JOSHUA A. KRISCH

A roundup of New York Times series, video, blogs and forum related to global warming.


For Western Oil Companies, Expanding in Russia Is a Dance Around Sanctions

By ANDREW E. KRAMER and STANLEY REED

BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and other big Western oil companies are striking deals and plowing money into Russia even as more sanctions loom.


Battle Over Fracking Poses Threat to Colorado Democrats

By JACK HEALY

An array of ballot proposals would ask Colorado voters to sharply limit energy development, but the Democratic governor and other party leaders are seeking an alternative.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 9th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Columnistof The New York Times.

Interests, Ideology And Climate

by  –

There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.

But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?

I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism.

Before I get to that, however, an aside on the economics.

I’ve noted in earlier columns that every even halfway serious study of the economic impact of carbon reductions — including the recent study paid for by the anti-environmental U.S. Chamber of Commerce — finds at most modest costs. Practical experience points in the same direction. Back in the 1980s conservatives claimed that any attempt to limit acid rain would have devastating economic effects; in reality, the cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide was highly successful at minimal cost. The Northeastern states have had a cap-and-trade arrangement for carbon since 2009, and so far have seen emissions drop sharply while their economies grew faster than the rest of the country. Environmentalism is not the enemy of economic growth.

But wouldn’t protecting the environment nonetheless impose costs on some sectors and regions? Yes, it would — but not as much as you think.

Consider, in particular, the much-hyped “war on coal.” It’s true that getting serious about global warming means, above all, cutting back on (and eventually eliminating) coal-fired power, which would hurt regions of the country that depend on coal-mining jobs. What’s rarely pointed out is how few such jobs still exist.

Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost.

The owners of coal mines and coal-fired power plants do have a financial interest in blocking environmental policy, but even there the special interests don’t look all that big. So why is the opposition to climate policy so intense?

Well, think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.

And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed.

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Some Comments:

Mike B.

I would say that aside from the scientifically based reasons for taking appropriate action on climate change, one of our strongest arguments…

Carlisle Landel

I think you underplay the role of special interests here. Coal is the low-hanging fruit of carbon emissions, but burning oil and gas also…

Alan Graf

Pogo once said “we have me the enemy and he is us.” Painting the problem as the enlightened ones vs the dumb deniers oversimplifies our…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

In the run-up to the 2014 June 4th celebration of Earth Day – which is also the UNEP birthday, the UN Information Service Vienna (UNIS) showed last night the documentary film “CHASING ICE” – by Jeff Orlowski who worked with material supplied to him by The National Geographic.

It was in the spring of 2005 when acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed with a team of heroes to capture visual evidence that the Arctic and an assortment of  glaciers are melting as Planet Earth’s Climate is changing – this as the biggest human effect on the physical aspects of the planet.

They did this by setting up cameras to capture on film – on single shots once a month – and on video cameras ongoing calving of the ice.  These are actual scenes of mountains of ice disappearing under our eyes and visual evidence of the receding glaciers. The pictures were shown to country delegates at the Climate Convention in Copenhagen – UNFCCC 15.

At the end of the showing, the best panel Austria could offer – discussed the meaning of what we saw, and from the audience the subject was enlarged with observations that in real life today there are factors within the Arctic Circle Council that view positively the melting of the ice caps, as this allows for access to riches of oil, gas, minerals … and the opening up of important navigation channels. On the other hand, Small Island States in the Pacific might just vanish like the glaciers do. All this as the water that originates from the melting ice swells the seas and changes patterns of rains and storms affecting the whole planet.

The members of the panel chaired by Mr. Martin Nesirky, Acting Director of  the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna – that discussed the movie – included:

Mr. Harald Egerer, UNEP Vienna – Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention ,
Mr. Helmut Hojesky, Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management,
Prof. Helga Kromp-Kolb, University of Natural Resources and  Applied Life Sciences (BOKU).

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

AMAZING – I just spent two days at the yearly meetings of the Austrian Economic Association that this year dealt with: ECONOMICS OF INEQUALITY and had as key-note speaker Sir Tony Atkinson f Oxford U., and now I find in my incoming e-mail an article from Bill Moyers talking to Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia U. who is President of the International Economic Association and cooperates with Sir Atkinson, something that nails the same topic down in excellent journalistic terms. Yes – clearly – we are doing everything wrong when it comes to build an economy – Why?

The Vienna meeting was held on the new campus of the Business University – WirtschafysUniversitaet Wien – in a building funded by the Austrian oil Company OEMV that is just in the news for the ill-advised South Stream Pipeline that is being planned to bypass The Ukraine when bringing to the EU Russian Gas – and was just shut down by the EU Commissioner for Energy who clearly does not want responsibility for this politically most miserable attempt by an oil company and a EU Member State to make money from fossil fuels and undermine a European Effort to go instead for Renewable Energy.

Professor Joe Stiglitz unmasks here this self-righteousness of the rich that think the World is their oyster and they have a Constitutional right to rob and legally cheat. The implications are immense and reach into globalization and efforts to enlarge the scope of international piracy using multinational trade agreements to undo healthy laws in countries that somehow managed to pass such laws.

 

Joseph E. Stiglitz: Let’s Stop Subsidizing Tax Dodgers.

 

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

 

31 May 2014
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

 

  new report by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz for the Roosevelt Institute suggests that paying our fair share of taxes and cracking down on corporate tax dodgers could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

This week on Moyers & Company, Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”

 

BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Our democracy is now probably better described as one dollar, one vote than one person, one vote. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Avoiding taxes has become a hallmark of America’s business icons; Apple, Google, GE, and many more of the Fortune 500. The nation’s largest corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash while revenue from corporate income taxes have plummeted from just below 40 percent in 1943 to just below 10 percent in 2012. Government and big business have colluded to create what’s tantamount to an “unlimited IRA” for corporations.

That’s not my term, although I wish I had thought of it, because it explains so much about what’s gone wrong in a country where some 20 million workers who would like a full-time job still can’t get one. Yet the upper one percent of the population takes home a staggering 22.5 percent of America’s income while their effective federal income tax rate has dropped.

No, the phrase was coined by Joseph Stiglitz, a man eminently worth quoting, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the world’s most influential economists.

Currently he’s president of the International Economic Association. Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton, and the author of best-selling books that have shaped worldwide debates on globalization, income inequality, and the role of government in the financial marketplace. Now he’s written one of his shortest but most important works: this white paper, published by the Roosevelt Institute where Joseph Stiglitz is a senior fellow. It’s a mere 27 pages, but in clear and cogent prose, backed up by facts and figures, it lays out a plan that not only would reform our taxes but create jobs and strengthen the economy. I’ve asked him here to tell us about it. Welcome.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Nice to be here.

 

BILL MOYERS: You argue that elimination of corporate welfare, or at least its reduction, should be at the center of tax reform. Why?

 JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, let me put it in a broader context. Our country needs, faces a lot of challenges. We, as you mentioned, 20 million Americans would like a full-time job and can’t get one. We have growing inequality. We have environmental problems that threaten the future of our planet. I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values. But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient. Look at the tax rate paid by that one percent. It’s much lower than the tax rate paid by somebody whose income is lower who works hard for a living, as a percentage of their income.

You know, Warren Buffet put it very -  why should he pay a lower tax rate on his reported income than his secretary? And the interesting thing that he didn’t emphasize was most of his income is in the form of unrealized capital gains.

 

BILL MOYERS: Unrealized capital gains are not taxed as long as the owner keeps them, right, doesn’t get rid of them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. And what’s even worse, if you’re a corporation and you even realize the capital gains but you’re abroad, you don’t bring the money back home, there’s still no taxes.

As long as they don’t bring the money back here, it accumulates, it grows and grows and grows, and they get wealthier. But it’s even worse than that. Because it means that they have an incentive to keep their money abroad.

And what does that mean? They have an incentive to create jobs abroad. And with our trade agreements, they can take the goods that are produced abroad with this tax-free money, bring it back in the United States, basically making it unfair competition with the goods produced by Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. There are several startling statements in your report. This is one of them: “our current tax system encourages multinationals to invest abroad.” And create jobs abroad, as you just said. And yet, these are people who defend their practices by saying, we are the job creators, we’re the job producers. And yet, you say they have an incentive to send jobs abroad.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: The whole discussion of who are the job creators, I think, has been misplaced. You know, what really creates jobs is demand–

 

BILL MOYERS: I spend my money to buy things.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. Americans of all income groups are entrepreneurial. You got people across our income distribution who, when there’s a demand, respond to that demand. But if there’s no demand, there won’t be jobs. Now, the problem is that the people in the one percent have so much money that they can’t spend it all. The people at the bottom are spending all of their income and hardly getting by. In fact, a very large fraction of those in the bottom 80 percent are spending more than their income. And it’s part of the instability of our economy. So, the point is this inequality contribute, to which our tax system contributes actually weakens our demand.

And that’s one of the main messages of my report, which is if we had a more progressive tax system, we could get a more efficient economy. Because there would be more jobs being created.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, these 20 million people I referred to, and you referred to in your report, who are looking for full-time work but can’t find it, if they had that work, they’d be spending their money. They’re not going to send it to the Cayman Islands, right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Exactly. And they’re going to be paying taxes. Because they don’t have the opportunities for tax avoidance that the people who have the Cayman Islands and can use these unlimited IRAs and other ways of tax avoidance. You know, they don’t keep the money in the Cayman Islands because the sunshine makes the money grow better. They put their money there because the lack of sunshine, the way of tax avoidance–

 

BILL MOYERS: Dark money, money in the shadows, money now going into our political process, as you know so well, to reinforce this tax code.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: That’s right. Reinforce the tax code, which has led America to be the country with the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries.

 

BILL MOYERS: Give us a working definition for the laity of corporate welfare.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, this was an idea that I began talking about when I was serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers–

 BILL MOYERS: Twenty years ago.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –twenty years ago. And everybody was talking about how much money you were giving to the poor people. It wasn’t, if you actually looked at the amount of money, it wasn’t that much. But we said, well, you’re also giving away a lot of money to rich corporations, directly and indirectly. Most of the indirect way is through the tax system. So, for instance, if you give special tax provisions for oil companies, so they don’t pay the full share of taxes that they ought to be paying, that’s a welfare benefit.

Lots of other provisions in our, hidden in our tax code basically help one industry or another, that can’t be justified in any economic terms. And, so, that’s where we coined the term “corporate welfare.” It’s caught on. And because it says it’s a subsidy, but not a subsidy, help going to a poor person, which is where welfare ought to be going, but going to the richest Americans, going to our rich corporations.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, we have a tax code that encourages people to– encourages companies to send their profits abroad, to send jobs abroad, and to reward owners of their company whose money may not come back to the United States?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: It doesn’t make any sense, you might say. And the fact it doesn’t, you know, one of the reasons I wrote the paper was, you know, there’s a lot discussion going on about we have a budget of deficit. And we have to slash this, and slash that, and cut back education, and cut back research, things that will make our economy stronger, cut back infrastructure.

 And I think that’s counterproductive. It’s weakening our economy. But the point I make in this paper is it would be easy for us to raise the requisite revenue. This is not a problem. This is not as if it’s going to oppress our economy. We could actually raise the money and make our economy stronger. For instance, we’re talking about the taxation of capital. If we just tax capital in the same way we tax ordinary Americans, people who work for a job, who pay taxes we pay on wages.

If we eliminate the special provisions of capital gains, if we eliminated the special provisions for dividends we could get, over the next ten years, over, you know, approximately $2 trillion. And those are numbers according to the CBO. And so, we’re talking about lots of money.

 

BILL MOYERS: The figures make sense to me. But the politics doesn’t. Because these are the people, once again, who dominate our system with their contributions to the politicians who then have no interest in changing a system that rewards their donors.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We have this vicious cycle where economic inequality gets translated into political inequality. It gets translated into rules of the game that lead to more economic inequality, and which allow that economic inequality to get translated into evermore political inequality. So, my view, you know, the only way we’re going to break into this viscous cycle is if people come to understand that there is an alternative system out here.

That there is an alternative way of raising taxes, that we are not really faced with a budget crisis. It’s a manmade crisis. You know, when we had the government shutdown, we realized that that was a political crisis. That wasn’t an economic crisis. And the same thing about our budget crisis, you know. It’s not that we couldn’t raise the revenues in a way which actually could make our economy stronger. We can.

If we just had a fair tax system, to tax capital at the same rate that we tax ordinary individuals, if we just made those people in that upper 1 percent pay their fair share of the taxes they got 22.5 percent of the income, well, let’s make sure that they pay a commensurate part of our income tax, if we had taxes that would be designed to improve our environment.

 

BILL MOYERS: You mean by taxing pollution?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Taxing pollution.

BILL MOYERS: Carbon emissions.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: A general principle that we’ve known for a long time, a lot better to tax bad things than good things. Rather than tax people who work, let’s shift some of that burden into things that are bad, like pollution.

BILL MOYERS: You make it sound so easy. And I’m still hung up on your saying, you know, it would be easy to do these things. And yet, if they were easy, why haven’t we done them?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, that’s the politics. The fact is that we have a political process that I won’t say is broken, but is certainly not functioning the way we think a democracy is supposed to function, you know. In democracy, supposed to be one person, one vote. And there’s a well-developed theory about what does that imply for the outcome of a political process?

We talk about it, called the median voter. It should reflect the middle, you know. Some people want more spending. Some people want less spending. Some people, you know, so the nature of democracy is compromise. And it’s supposed to be compromise sort of in the middle. But that’s not we have today in the United States. We have a tax system that reflects not the interest of the middle. We have a tax system that reflects the interest of the one percent.

 

BILL MOYERS: Let me cite some examples of the biggest tax dodgers. These come from the organization, Americans for Tax Fairness. Citigroup had $42.6 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. Exxon Mobil had $43 billion in profits offshore in 2012 on which it paid no U.S. taxes. General Electric made $88 billion from 2002 to 2012 and paid just 2.4 percent in taxes for a tax subsidy of $29 billion, I could go on. Pfizer, Honeywell, Verizon, FedEx, Apple. What goes through your mind when you hear these figures?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well, so, many things go through my mind. But, you know, one of the things is how unfair this is, and how angry Americans ought to be about this. I also think of the ethics of the question. If I were a CEO, take of a company like Apple, use the ingenuity of America, based on the internet. Internet was created, in large measure, by government–

 BILL MOYERS: Right.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: –by government spending. They’re willing to take but not to give back. So, there’s really a whole set of problems that concern it, ethics, equity, fairness, resource allocations. What they don’t seem to understand is our society can’t function if these large corporations don’t make their fair share of contributions.

 

BILL MOYERS: Aren’t they likely to say, though, in response, well we do this because the law permits it. This is what the system incentivizes.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Well the law does permit it. They use their lobbyists to make sure that the law gives them the scope to avoid taxes. So, this argument, oh, we’re only doing what the law allows, is disingenuous. The fact is they created, their lobbyists, their lobbying helped create this law that allows them to escape taxes, pushing the burden of taxation on ordinary Americans.

 

BILL MOYERS: So, that’s the big impact on people, right. They– somebody has to make up the difference between–

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Somebody has to make up the difference. I mean, we can’t survive as a society without roads, infrastructure, education, police, firemen. Somebody’s going to have to pay these costs.

 

BILL MOYERS: Summarizing what you say in here about your proposal, raise the corporate tax rate, but provide generous tax credits for corporations that invest in the U.S. and create jobs here. Eliminate the loopholes that distort the economy, increase taxes on corporations, the profits of which are associated with externalities such as pollution, reduce the bias toward leverage by making dividend payments tax deductible, but imposing a withholding tax. I mean, these seem so common-sensical that a journalist can understand them. But they don’t get into the debate.

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Yeah, well, I hope this paper will help move that along. You notice when you were listing them that these are very much based on incentives. As I said–

 

BILL MOYERS: Your plan is based on incentives?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: On incentives that we’ve created a tax system that has an incentive to move jobs abroad. And what I want to do is create a tax system that has incentives to create jobs. And if you tell a corporation, look it, if you don’t create jobs, you’re taking out of our system, you’re not putting anything back, you’re going to pay a high tax.

But if you put back into our system by investing, then you can get your tax rate down. That seems to me, common sense, particularly in a time like today, when 20 million Americans need a job. When we have so much inequality and this unemployment is contributing to that inequality.

You know, in this, the first three years of the so-called recovery, between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of all the gains went to the upper 1 percent. So, the American workers are not participating. And the reason they’re not participating is there’s just not enough job creation here at home. And, so, this is a way of trying to incentivize all these corporations who are sitting on all this money abroad to start using some of their huge resources, some of all those benefits that we’ve given them, for the benefit of the American people.

 

BILL MOYERS: You move in circles where you come into contact with the CEOs of these companies, many of whom are deficit hawks, you know. They keep, they’re on committees. They keep testifying in Washington. They call for deficit reduction. What do they say when you make this argument to them face to face, as you’re making it to me?

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: Most of them are not economists. And most of them are concerned with their corporation’s own bottom line and with their own salary. So, we’ve created a corporate system in the United States where the CEOs’ pay is related to the shareholder value. The shareholder value is related to how little taxes they pay. Because if they get the taxes down, profits look high and people will pay more for their shares.

So, when they’re making an argument for, let’s lower the corporate income tax, let’s lower taxes that I have to pay, let’s expand corporate loopholes, they don’t use those words. But what they’re really saying is, pay me more, because if I succeed in getting Congress to do that, my pay goes up, not because I’ve worked harder.

I haven’t invented something new. I haven’t made my customers happier. I made my company more valuable by succeeding in getting provisions that allow my company to avoid taxes. And then, my shareholder value goes up, and my salary goes up.

 

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Joseph Stiglitz will continue next week. {and we promise here to post the follow-up as well – The SustainabiliTank.info editor}

 

As if to prove a point, the U.S. House of Representatives, functioning these days as a legislative bordello for corporate America, is moving to extend and make permanent six separate tax cuts for big business. The whole package would come at a cost of $310 billion, virtually wiping out all the deficit reduction from last year. One of those tax credits, for research and development, already has been approved, at a cost over the next ten years of $156 billion. That’s 15 times as much as it would cost to extend unemployment benefits.

 

Did House Republicans offer to renew help for people out of work? Nope. They’re deficit hawks, and they said there’s no money to pay for it. Of course they could just ask their corporate friends to give the tax breaks back. But that would be asking too much, especially on the eve of the fall Congressional elections when secret or dark money from you-know-who will flow into you-know-whose campaigns like….well, like champagne on the company jet.

 

Yet another reminder that you need not impose fraud on people by stealth if you can succeed by law.

 

Next week, more on politics, taxes, and inequality with Joseph Stiglitz.

 

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ: We already have a tax system that has contributed to making America the most unequal society of the advanced countries. That doesn’t have to be. We can have a tax system that can help create a fairer society— only ask the people at the top to pay their fair share.

 

BILL MOYERS: At our website, BillMoyers.com, we’ll link you to Joe Stiglitz’s white paper for the Roosevelt Institute. You’ll also find a list there of ten corporate tax dodgers whose names and brands we bet you’ll recognize.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

 

“The model of a totalitarian, technocratic Europe is now out of date,” Marine Le Pen said in Brussels on Wednesday. Credit Francois Lenoir/Reuters

 

BRUSSELS — Emboldened by the victory in European elections of her fiercely anti-European Union party, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, took her crusade on Wednesday into the lair of the “monster of Brussels” — the headquarters of the 28-nation union — to forge a far-right alliance spanning the continent.

Ms. Le Pen, whose party trounced France’s established political forces in European Parliament elections that ended on Sunday, said at a news conference that she had a mission to form a bloc of like-minded groups in the Brussels legislature that would “prevent any progress” toward European unity and would restore the power of individual nation states.

For now, however, she is falling short, betraying the fractious nature of Europe’s right-wing groups, which find even each other too toxic, even if they share a desire to push Brussels bureaucrats into a corner and farther from politics on the national stage.

“The model of a totalitarian, technocratic Europe is now out of date,” Ms. Le Pen said Wednesday, speaking in the European Parliament alongside the leaders of populist, anti-Brussels groups from Austria, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands.

Ms. Le Pen visited Brussels just a few hours after a late-night gathering of European leaders, including the French president, François Hollande, who bemoaned the National Front’s strong electoral showing as “a trauma for France, and for Europe” that had “tarnished the image of France.”

Ms. Le Pen described the previous evening’s dinner for European leaders as “an emergency crisis meeting” called in response to the strong increase in support for anti-establishment parties in the elections. (The dinner had actually been scheduled weeks before the results were announced on Sunday.)

Declaring that the election would reshape Europe’s direction and put traditional elites on the run, Ms. Le Pen said the National Front and allied European parties had shown “a formidable level of unity” and displayed “the maturity of the new generation that we represent.”

For Ms. Le Pen, the would-be standard-bearer of Europe’s far-right forces, the trip to Brussels was the latest step in a long campaign by the National Front to shed its reputation as a refuge for anti-Semites and racists and to transform itself into a respectable political force with a serious shot at governing France one day. Immediately after its success in the European elections, in which it got around a quarter of the French vote, the National Front rebranded itself “the first party of France.”

“Her goal is not to be re-elected to the European Parliament,” said Jean-Yves Camus, a political analyst at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris. “Her goal is the Élysée Palace, not Brussels.”

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and a close ally of Ms. Le Pen, called the gathering in Brussels a “historic meeting” that marked the end of Europe’s six-decade drive for economic and political integration. “We are writing history here today,” said Mr. Wilders, whose party finished third in the European election in the Netherlands, a rare example of an anti-establishment party having done worse than expected.

Harald Vilimsky, a leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, hailed Ms. Le Pen as “the iconic figure of the new Europe, of bringing sovereignty back to the nation state.”

Complaining that there was a “demonization of anybody who criticizes the European project,” he said that Brussels had become “a combination of Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca. It is untouchable.” His party finished a strong third in Austria, with nearly 20 percent of the vote.

As Ms. Le Pen and others on the far right outlined their ambitions, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the European Parliament building in Brussels, holding placards and chanting slogans that denounced the National Front leader as a fascist menace. But they, too, cursed the Brussels bureaucracy, accusing it of having brought misery to Europe by promoting austerity as the cure for economic ills.

To form a formal caucus in the European Parliament, Ms. Le Pen will have to secure the support of at least 25 legislators from seven countries — two more countries than she has today. The United Kingdom Independent Party, which came in first in Britain’s European elections, drawing nearly 27 percent of the vote, has refused to collaborate with Ms. Le Pen because of what it says are her party’s racist and anti-Semitic roots.

The Danish People’s Party, which trounced mainstream parties in Denmark, also “wants nothing to do with her party,” said Soren Espersen, a member of the Danish Parliament and the party’s spokesman on foreign affairs. “They have a very bad reputation.”

Ms. Le Pen said she was confident that she could muster the necessary numbers to form a formal group in the Parliament, which would unlock funding and guarantee speaking time.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, rejected an alliance “for tactical reasons,” she said, because he did not want to give up the leadership of a group in the European Parliament that is now dominated by his party.

Wary of giving ammunition to her critics, Ms. Le Pen has ruled out joining forces with nationalist parties that have embraced anti-Semitism, like Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, both of which also won seats in the European Parliament.

Simon Hix, a professor of European and comparative politics at the London School of Economics, said Mr. Farage would probably continue taking a separate course from Ms. Le Pen. While the French far-right leader “will manage to cobble something together,” he said, it most likely “won’t last long.”

“Their attention will shift to domestic politics very quickly,” he said.

Ms. Le Pen has sought to broaden her support base beyond voters who share the incendiary views of her 86-year-old father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s founder. Just last week, Mr. Le Pen stirred outrage by suggesting that the recent outbreak of Ebola, a virus that has killed at least 175 in Africa, might reduce the number of would-be migrants to France. While she advocates tight controls on immigration, Marine Le Pen has tried to soften her party’s image, focusing much of her fire on bureaucrats in Brussels rather than on foreigners, particularly nonwhite ones, as her father did.

“It is still a fascist ideology, even if it is disguised under the smile and the charm of Marine Le Pen,” said Dominique Moïsi, a senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations. Many who voted for her were disenchanted with mainstream parties, he said, “but they were not necessarily hoping she would go to the Élysée Palace.”

Nonetheless, the National Front’s showing in the elections cemented its transformation from a fringe party to a more central one, emboldening Ms. Le Pen to start plotting a course toward the presidency in 2017.

With the Socialist Party of Mr. Hollande and the scandal-plagued Union for a Popular Movement, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, both in disarray, the National Front is in a position to become a third major player on France’s political landscape. Ultimately, Ms. Le Pen’s ability to advance further on the national scene will depend on whether the mainstream parties can rebuild themselves and regain the confidence of French voters.

“If the mainstream parties react with enough courage and lucidity, and find the right way to speak to the citizens, then Marine Le Pen’s high point will have been May 2014,” Mr. Moïsi said. “But if they fail to understand the gravity of the message sent to them by the electorate, you can’t exclude that Marine Le Pen could be the president of France.”

 

Related Articles:

  • Letter From Europe: After Vote, a Rubicon Moment for E.U.?

  • National Front Wins Support and Elections.

  • Anti-Europe Parties at Odds, Despite Shared Cause. 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

BEIJING, May 21, 2014  —  China and Russia signed a $400 billion gas deal on Wednesday, giving Moscow a megamarket for its leading export and linking two major powers that, despite a rocky history of alliances and rivalries, have drawn closer to counter the clout of the United States and Europe.

The impetus to complete the gas deal, which has been talked about as a game-changing accord for more than a decade, finally came together after the Ukrainian crisis forced Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to urgently seek an alternative to Europe, Moscow’s main energy market. Europe has slapped sanctions on Russia and sought ways to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

Mr. Putin, on a two-day visit to Shanghai, and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, oversaw the signing of the contract between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation, the biggest natural gas deal Russia has sealed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The contract runs for 30 years and calls for the construction of pipelines and other infrastructure that will require tens of billions of dollars in investment.

Ostensibly on the same side during the Cold War, the Asian neighbors even then competed for global influence with their divergent brands of communism. They fought a brief but explosive border war in 1969, and later took opposite sides in conflicts in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

They have similar views of the United States, however, including opposition to its unilateral military actions in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya, and wanted to take Uncle Sam down a peg or two.  Mr. Putin, in particular, wanted to make a point of showing that the United States and its NATO partners were in decline.

The deal offered a lift for the Russian economy, he said, and for Mr. Putin, China’s validation would improve Russia’s world image.

At the same time, Mr. Xi is unhappy with the Obama administration on issues ranging from Washington’s outspoken support of its military alliance with Japan, its criticism of China’s actions in the South China Sea, and its hard line on cybertheft.

Although China had expressed neutrality over the Ukraine crisis because of the take-over of land – the strained relations with Washington in other spheres tip China’s position in favor of Russia.

The final price of the Russian gas, which will flow through a 2,500-mile pipeline from two fields in Siberia, was not disclosed, and energy markets were trying to parse who gained the bigger advantage.

Russia had been holding out for a price close to what European countries pay, and China for a price akin to the cheaper gas it buys from Central Asia, energy experts who tracked the talks said.

With Russia’s economy near recession and the International Monetary Fund projecting 0.2 percent growth this year, Mr. Putin was desperate to get the deal done, energy experts said.

The chief executive of Gazprom, Alexey Miller, said the contract called for Russia to supply 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually over 30 years, making the price about $350 per thousand cubic meters. In 2013, the average price of Gazprom’s gas in Europe was about $380 per thousand cubic meters.

“The pricing appears to be between European Union prices and Turkmenistan prices,” said Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “We will have to wait for the next few months to learn about the details.”

Morena Skalamera, a fellow at the Geopolitics of Energy Project at Harvard, said Mr. Putin was more willing to concede on price than he had been before the Ukraine crisis.

“If the European market was a question mark before the Ukrainian crisis, now with sanctions, Putin needed China even more,” she said.

“Politically, it is important for Putin to show that the ‘Greater Russia’ is back on the international scene and that it has other, non-Western options to restore its rightful place.”

In exchange for a lower price, China offered a loan of about $50 billion that will finance development of the gas fields and the construction of the pipeline by Russia up to the Chinese border, Ms. Skalamera said. The Chinese would build the remaining pipeline, and gas is scheduled to start pumping in 2018, she said.

In remarks after the signing, Mr. Putin stressed that the price of the gas was based on the market price for oil, just as it was for Russia’s gas supplies to European countries. “The gas price formula, as in our other contracts, is pegged to the market of oil and oil products,” Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.

Without the oil price benchmark, Russia would be under pressure to renegotiate European prices, said Kenneth S. Courtis, a founding partner of Thames Investment. The price of Russian gas to Europe is based on fluctuations in oil prices, making it more expensive than gas that China buys from Central Asia, he said.

Even with this new agreement, Europe will remain Russia’s biggest market, but Siberian natural gas does give China a cleaner substitute for the fossil fuels — coal and petroleum — that provide most of its energy needs, and cause much of the pollution smothering China’s cities. China will  have diverse suppliers of gas not making it not dependent only on the Russians.

Globally, the newly marketed shale gas technology allows for additional potential gas suppliers to join the international market. The subject of gas supplies becomes thus a main issue of geopolitics and Europe is best advised not to find itself dependent on the goodwill of Russia. So we see no reason for Austria continuing to back the construction of new pipelines for Russian gas – the like of  “South Stream” and let Europe use the funds in order to develop indigenous renewable sources of energy instead.

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Gas deal more important to Russia than China
Tom Mitchell and Kathrin Hille, The Financial Times
Chinese President Xi Jinping finally granted his Russian counterpart a long-awaited gas supply contract on Wednesday, ending a decade of negotiations during which China’s economic growth tilted the bilateral balance of power in Beijing’s favour.
jlne.ws/1m7Qp4W

Russia-China Deal Seen Damping LNG Prices as Output Rises
Robert Tuttle, Anna Shiryaevskaya and Isis Almeida, Bloomberg
China’s deal to buy natural gas from Russia after a decade of talks risks making tanker shipments of the fuel less competitive as new projects target Asian markets.
jlne.ws/1i6SCJF

Russia’s Rosneft gearing up for gas exports to Asia
Alexei Anishchuk, Reuters
Russia could significantly boost its natural gas sales to Asia if companies other than Kremlin-controlled Gazprom secured exporting rights, documents from Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft showed.
jlne.ws/1jFGlkS

PetroChina, Utilities Stand to Gain From Russia Gas Deal
Aibing Guo, Bloomberg
PetroChina Co., the country’s biggest oil and gas producer, stands to win from Russia’s $400 billion deal to supply natural gas to China as it will provide gas at a price lower than had been expected.
jlne.ws/1m7XceO

Russia may exempt China gas from mineral extraction tax – Ifax
Reuters
Russia will consider exempting gas sent to China from mineral extraction tax, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday in comments cited by the Interfax news agency.
jlne.ws/RWLB7O

China’s Global Search for Energy
Clifford Krauss and Keith Bradsher, The New York Times
Whether by diplomacy, investment or in extreme cases, force, China is going to great lengths to satisfy its growing hunger for energy to fuel its expanding car fleet and electrify its swelling cities.
jlne.ws/1k7h0je

——————————————————-

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

A Solar-backed Currency for the Refugees of Western Sahara.

By Mel Chin | Creative Time | April 30, 2014

 www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/i…

View of Smara, one of the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun.

The HSBC ads at Newark International Airport could not have been more appropriate for my trek to the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. As I ambled through the jet bridge with my carry-on, color-coordinated images of demure North African women met my eyes, accompanied by some facts assembled by the bank—”0.3% of Saharan solar energy could power Europe”—and a self-aggrandizing but, for me, prescient message: “Do you see a world of potential? We do.”

It was the fall of 2011, and I was on a string of flights from North Carolina to Algeria to participate in an ARTifariti convening of international artists presenting human rights–related projects at the Algerian camps and in Western Sahara. During previous gatherings, a New York–based art critic had presented a slide show to international artists and Sahrawi refugees, sharing pieces by activist artists and filmmakers such as Ai Weiwei and Spike Lee. The get-togethers offered a forum to consider artists who might do a project in the camps.

And in the end, the refugees had chosen a Chinese Texan who had spearheaded Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project, an artwork that prompted Americans to draw their own versions of $100 bills (in order to raise awareness of and prevent childhood lead poisoning). Essentially they said, “Bring us the guy with the money.” So I packed my bags and left for the western lands of North Africa.

Mel Chin

Operation Paydirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project in St. Roch, New Orleans. CREDIT: Amanda Wiles, 2009.

At an unknown hour on a starless night, I arrived in the 27 February Camp—one of Algeria’s five Sahrawi refugee camps (named after the date in 1976 on which the Polisario Front declared the birth of the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic)—and was led to the home of our host, Abderrahman. As we entered his compound, the seasoned warrior, dressed in a blue darrâa, emerged from a UN tent, unfurled a carpet over the sand, ignited charcoal and began to prepare the customary tea for us. We attempted to translate from Hassaniya Arabic to Spanish to English over tea, getting a taste of enthusiastic nomad hospitality.

That night I heard firsthand the history of the Sahrawi people, who today are divided between Algerian refugee camps and a sliver of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara that they call the “liberated territories.” For nearly four decades, warfare and political powers have trapped more than 150,000 Sahrawis in the camps and separated them from their family members in the liberated territories, which are bounded by the Moroccan wall to the west and Algeria’s border to the east.

When Morocco and Mauritania invaded Western Sahara in 1975 (Mauritania withdrew in 1979), they split up the land and seized the Sahrawis’ natural resources—water, rich fishing grounds and the world’s largest phosphate mine. Now, inhabiting either the arid, landlocked region of Western Sahara or the bare-bones camps of Algeria, the Sahrawi people depend entirely on international humanitarian aid for food, water and medicine. And while Western Sahara has none of the lead-poisoning problems of postindustrial America, its liberated territories have more landmines than any other place on the planet.

Mel Chin

In the tent of Abderrahman and his family. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

In the morning I awoke from this harrowing chronicle in a land of sand and rock that was brutally burnished by the sun—and I can guarantee that there was no bank in sight. I soon learned why the Sahrawi people were so interested in the Fundred Dollar Bill project: they have no currency of their own and deal mostly with Algerian dinars. In response, we created a background template for their currency, printed thousands of blank bills and distributed them through the camps, announcing a design opportunity. After we curated their drawings, the Sahrawis would vote on the designs for what might become their first currency.

The denominations for the currency, called “sollars,” were 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Children and teens drew the 5s and 10s; young adults, the 20s; and of course, the elders, the 100s. But the designs for the 50s would have two adult versions, one male and one female. The survivalist family culture that has emerged from the hostile desert climate has enforced a long-standing code of equality between the sexes. In a region where food is scarce and hot summer temperatures and freezing desert nights can kill, whoever survives the elements must be allowed equal rights in the tribe to barter and represent the family, regardless of religious dictates.

Mel Chin

The children’s school at the 27 February Camp. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2011.

While I was in the camps, I came to understand that the symbolic and therapeutic benefits of designing the first Sahrawi currency with the refugees were not worthy enough goals. The Sahrawi people need a real economy. And to make that happen, the fictional currency I helped the refugees design had to be backed by something real and exchangeable on international markets.

As I mulled over the problem under the blazing sun, I realized that the desert holds the potential to bring Sahrawis economic and political independence—and the leverage necessary to help us all combat climate change.

What the world needs now is the first Bank of the Sun. The first solar energy–backed currency in the world could bring the Sahrawi people an independent economy and offer a major breakthrough in an environmental quagmire. We would create a new model of banking and currency, free from the dominance of gold and oil, for first-world countries to follow.

And this model would be delivered by the Sahrawi people, who have been waiting for freedom and self-determination for 39 years! By achieving worldwide renown for freeing people from hydrocarbon dependency, the Sahrawi could then barter with the global community for another form of independence: their right to self-determination.

Mel Chin Bank of the Sun Western SaharaFreedom is the concept propelling my action with the Sahrawi people. The sun on this poster for the Bank of the Sun is composed of the Arabic word for “freedom,” repeated 38 times—once for every year the Sahrawis have waited for the right to self-determination (as of last year). CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

I admit that it was a pretty far-out and grand idea, but I suppose I did see a world of potential in Saharan solar energy, just like the jetway HSBC ad said. I was thinking like a bank.

After getting back from the Tindouf camps, I found myself in Texas, accepting a national award for my efforts in public art and, most likely, boring everyone with crazy talk about a Bank of the Sun in landmine-laced Western Sahara. My friends were more concerned about my diminishing sense of self-preservation than about anything I said—especially after I told them that my trip to Tifariti had been interrupted by the armed kidnapping of three foreign-aid workers from a neighboring refugee camp. They didn’t even entertain my ideas with any questions about how the bank idea could be pulled off.

As with most such gatherings, there was not much left to do after the award ceremony but drink and dance. So, with friends in tow, we honky-tonked through San Antonio, taking over a bar by the River Walk and proceeding to do what had to be done. While taking a break from the floor, I noticed a man about my age sitting at a table with a beer, tapping his feet to the bluesy beat. I had my posse pull him onto the floor. He began to move in a calculated way, like an engineer. Intrigued, I joined him and the party on the floor.

Over the din, I shouted, “What do you do?”

He shouted back, “I’m an engineer.”

“Really?” I asked. “What kind?”

“A solar engineer.”

I challenged Texas style: “So, ever heard of Western Sahara?”

Matter-of-factly he replied, “Yes, we designed a power station for the refugee camps there.”

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds; the bodies in frantic motion seemed to stand still. I urged him off the dance floor. He told me, in an Australian accent, that he was Dr. Richard Corkish, head of photovoltaic engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Not only that—his colleague had just been in the same refugee camps I had visited, advising on how to power a women’s clinic. It was a profound coincidence, to say the least. We closed the bar, and I left clutching Dr. Corkish’s business card.

For me, a light flicked on, burning away the haze of booze and turning the blaring R&B into a background of sweet birds.

Since our night on the floor, Dr. Corkish has been an adviser to the Bank of the Sun, which is on its way to becoming a reality. He has assigned students the project as part of his curriculum and counseled us on the design of a modular, pragmatic stand-alone solar power plant in Western Sahara, as well as a cost-effective method for transmitting power. Following Corkish’s methodologies, we could generate more than enough energy for Sahrawi needs, creating a surplus to sell to neighboring countries or even to Europe. By working in the Western Sahara to retool our approach to energy, we would prove that the most advanced methods of solar-power storage and delivery are feasible even in a place with no infrastructure. The most appropriate technology for us all could be built from the sand up.

In February 2013 I discussed the project with Ahmad Bukhari, the Polisario representative to the United Nations, and later with Mohamed Yeslem Beisat, the ambassador to the United States for the Western Saharan people. Skeptical at first, they have both become advisers and creative collaborators.

To make the first Bank of the Sun a reality, we have to find a place where electricity can be generated that is both safe from armed conflict and close enough to someone interested in buying energy. Bukhari suggested placing the stand-alone solar power plant not in the camps but in Mijek, a nomadic outpost in the liberated territories. Mijek continues to be the most likely site because the energy could be sold to Zouérat, a town in northern Mauritania where an iron ore mine needs more power than is available. The Mauritanian ambassador recently confirmed that the country would buy any energy offered. I have started to seek funds for a fact-finding trek, during which I will finally step on the sands of Western Sahara.

Mel Chin

The site and plans for the potential Bank of the Sun. CREDIT: Mel Chin, 2013.

During my time in the Sahrawi refugee camps, I relearned a lesson I picked up in the flood-wracked and environmentally poisoned parts of New Orleans: you are not inspired by tragedy or human suffering—you are compelled.

My brilliant translator, a young man named Mohamed Sulaiman Labat, was born in the camps and has never traveled beyond his host country, Algeria, or the shameful wall of sand and explosives erected by Morocco in Western Sahara. Sulaiman is majestic in his capacity for optimism and his aptitude for imagining alternative futures based on ideas we discussed during my stay. On our last night together, he spoke with me about staring each night into the vast sky above the camps. He then asked, “No disrespect, but why is it so easy for an artist to see our need for justice when the rest of the world can’t?”

A question like that makes you think about what could be and about how our humanity is challenged if we don’t take action to amplify his question—and to force an answer.

———————–

This piece from Creative Time Reports is republished without trying to track down permission. Climate Reports is made possible by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. This series is produced in conjunction with the 2013 Marfa Dialogues/NY organized by Ballroom Marfa, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and the Public Concern Foundation. We hope that the authors will not mind our trying to publicize their very sound dream for a mos reasonable future. The only question is if the world will be enlightened enough to see that the true realists are the dreamers of today.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Eurovision and Euro elections: the final straw in Polish gender wars.

 

 

 How is the victory of Conchita Wurst being politicized in Poland? What is the connection between Eurovision and the upcoming European Parliamant elections?

 

The Polish political scene was electrified following the Austrian win in the Eurovision song contest. Right-wing parliamentarians and candidates in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament held numerous press conferences in order to complain about  this ‘new’ Europe, which allows the victory of a ‘woman with a beard’.  Also Polish social media exploded with homo- and transphobic comments and memes.

‘Europe takes away our shipyards and sugar factories and gives us bearded weirdoes instead!’ a
right wing political party spokesperson tweeted yesterday. Another tweet by a Polish candidate for the European Parliament epitomizes the general mood yesterday: ‘Europe has lost it! They promote
a bearded weirdo from Austria instead of beautiful and talented girls. This madness needs to be done away with!’

The victory of the Austrian singer Conchita Wurst (drag alias of performer Thomas Neuwirth) politicized Eurovision for Poland (to see how political Eurovision has always been in other parts of Europe, it is enough to follow voting patterns in the Balkans or the Caucasus). Politicians and commentators alike were going out of their way to deride the debauchery they saw. ‘Conchita Wurst is a symbol of the direction, in which Europe is heading (…) a symbol of Europe I don’t want. My Europe is based on Christian values’, said the spokesperson of the main Polish opposition party, Law and Justice (currently polling first for European elections).

‘Very disquieting things are going on in Europe, things that show decadence, downturn and we would like to reverse this trend’ Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice, pointed out. ‘Any propaganda aiming to efface differences between men and women is the road to decay (…) we should definitely not celebrate such things, these events do not bode well’ he added.

The Polish Catholic Church lost no time in putting their two cents in as well: ‘This is another form of promoting groups that sneer at human dignity (…) another confirmation that backgrounds priding themselves on sexual licentiousness are protected by the dominant media and “politically correct” authorities’ said priest Marek Drzewiecki. ‘It seems that the victory of Conchita Wurst was a result of the propagation of genderism. And here we should have concerns, because in the long run this destroys the family’, commented the Polish media go-to priest Dariusz Oko.

It has to be said that Polish commentators were outdone only by the Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who stated that this was the end of Europe and that the Soviet army should have never left Austria 50 years ago…

 

Polish gender wars:

Trolling and hate speech are a common blight of internet memes and fora. But the Polish political and social media reaction to this year’s Eurovision winner is part of a larger war which has been waged against the term ‘gender’ in Poland. As outrageous as it sounds, for the past two years or so, mainstream conservative and right wing forces (which dominate the Polish political scene) have constructed and maintained a discursive fight over the meaning and application of the seemingly obscure academic concept of gender. The virulent attacks were mostly aimed at feminist and queer academia, gender equality programs and policies especially in school and kindergarten education.

The ‘war on gender’ discourse originated in the catholic church and quickly spilled over into parliamentary and local politics. By conflating and mixing terms and phenomena this discourse attempts to hammer the message home that ‘gender’ (or ‘gender ideology’ and ‘genderism’ as used by the proponents) destroys traditional Polish family values (through divorce and same-sex relationships), promotes and ‘spreads homosexuality’, causes child sexual abuse (gender equality education is supposed to ‘sexualise children’), and turns everyone into transvestites. There is no knowledge or education on the differences between sexual reassignment, cross-dressing or transgender and queer identities and essentially no awareness on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Hence, the ‘war on gender’ in Poland is intensely trans- and homophobic and plays into the wider anti-feminist and anti-LGBT moods within Eastern Europe. According to the 2013 ‘EU LGBT Survey’ by the Fundamental Rights Agency, 57% of people self-identifying as LGBT felt discriminated against in Poland (EU average – 47%), with only Lithuania and Croatia ranking higher (61% and 60% respectively). The lack of improvement in the social position of sexual minorities paired with attempts to roll back women’s rights (restrictions on abortion law, lack of civil partnerships legislation, problems with the implementation of anti-discrimination clauses) are a wider feature in the region. After the fall of state socialism, Eastern Europe has seen waves of growing religious and nationalistic intolerance. The rhetoric of ‘return to tradition’ (where ‘tradition’ stands for normality and nature, meaning mono-ethnic patriarchy) has become an ever-present image and dominant component of the revived and mythologized national identities in Poland, Russia, the Baltic states, the Balkans, Slovakia and Hungary.

 

‘We are Slavs’ vs. Wurst

According to such narratives ‘women are women and men are men’, because there are undeniable biological differences which give the two sexes specific gender roles, since men and women must have inherently different emotional and psychological qualities. This gender essentialism emerges most strikingly if you compare the Polish Eurovision performance – the song ‘We are Slavic’ and Conchita Wurst’s ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’. Eurovision is a proud feat of kitsch, but the two performances give a perfect illustration of competing gender perspectives. Conchita Wurst embodies everything that conservative Eastern Europe fears from the EU – subversion and transgression in terms of gender roles, gender ambiguity and flexibility in gender expression (translated in Poland into moral decay, rampant trans- and homosexuality, as well as going against nature or god’s law). What about ‘us, Slavs’? The song depicts perfectly the Polish heteronormative natural and traditional vision of gender roles: ‘We Slavic girls know how our charms and beauty work/We like to shake what mom gave us in our genes/ This is Slavic blood!/(…) What’s ours is best, because it’s ours!’ Whether you think the performance was pastiche, soft porn or just good fun, the not-so-subtle message was that Slavic women know ‘how to use what mother nature gave them’ and half-dressed do the laundry and churn butter by hand in sexually inviting ways for their men.

 

War on gender and European Parliament elections

The Polish ‘war on gender’, which had somewhat died down in the past couple of months, reached another apogee this week thanks to the Eurovision song contest. The amount of bile, hate speech and trans- and homophobia that spilled from Polish political elites and social media in response to the event shows how dominant the ‘gender war’ thinking has become as a comfortable rhetoric tool in debates. It also gave conservative Eurosceptics an image to point to before the European Parliament elections later this month. Given the already extremely low interest and weak voter turnout (never exceeding 25% so far) in European elections, the Polish right wing gained an emotive picture to scare people with and to rally against. An image that plays perfectly into the political game they have been playing since mid-2012, when they took on fighting ‘gender’ and trying to curb gender equality, women’s and sexual minority rights even further. Image of a woman with a beard.

 —————————————-

Barbara Gaw?da is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on gendered political discourses in Eastern Europe.

Related Articles of Open Democracy:
The lead-up to the European elections in Bulgaria: how not to do politicsNikolay Nikolov
We don’t talk about politics in PolandMarzena Sadowska
—————————————–
And from the ECONOMIST of  May 19, 2014 by T.J. in Eastern approaches – Ex-communist Europe:“The Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and another senior churchman have used the floods to attack the country’s lesbian and gay community as well as Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian drag queen who won the Eurovison song contest on May 10th. They claim that the floods were a punishment from God for their vices.”
But this is not all – similar arguments come in Vienna also from Muslim sources. Personally  – I was lectured today by my good Macedonian Muslim tailor on how from above angels punish us for the ways women behave,  and he gave me full description of the way these angels, under Gabriel, act according to the Koran and tradition.He also reminded me of Lot’s daughters and the upheaval they caused and the hole in the earth that is now the Dead Sea! To show how series this is he gave me to take home some booklets that were given to him.
In short, a poor rational person like myself is pushed to take cover by these Eastern minds – be they from the Eastern Christian Churches or Muslims.    Europe is still far away from enlightenment.
And what about the Christian right or the extreme Jewish Orthodoxy in America? Are they any better?
Too bad that in the 21st Century we still have to hear such arguments while we try to analyze man-induced climate change.
==============================
On the other hand, according to the “Heute” paper of today, the husband of Conchita Wurst (Tom Neuwirth) is Jacques Patriaque – who is a “Boylesque” dancer – that is the men parallel to Burlesque that shows mostly women.

This information became available as Mr. Patriaque will be performing in an upcoming festival – www.boylesque festivalvienna.com – This new angle to Conchita’s story story is bound to be reason for new criticism.
Whatever – we will continue to hold to our idea that people’s preferences do not entitle them to prejudice that impacts human rights of others.

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

- See more at: 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

Last updated on 20 May 2014,  RTCC. org (Responding to Climate Change)

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai.

- See more at: www.rtcc.org/2014/05/20/ban-ki-mo…

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

- See more at: www.rtcc.org/2014/05/20/ban-ki-mo…

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

- See more at: 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

- See more at: 

Ban Ki-moon: China must offer global climate ‘leadership’

UN Secretary General hails Chinese efforts to combat climate change during trip to Shanghai

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

Ban Ki-moon is greeted by Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. (Pic: UN Photo/Mark Garten)

By Sophie Yeo

China must provide “global leadership” in the fight against climate change, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Shanghai yesterday.

The UN chief is visiting China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, ahead of the climate change summit that he will convene in September, where world leaders are invited to make “bold pledges” on how their country can tackle global warming.

China should lead this global effort, Ban stressed during a talk to the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, and highlighted existing government actions to address the country’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Here in China you are on the frontlines of the fight – with new carbon markets, large investments in renewable energy and strong new laws on pollution,” he said.

Since arriving in China on Sunday, Ban Ki-moon has held discussions with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. According to a UN spokesperson, Ban told Li that he hoped to see China present both its national and global climate vision during his September Summit.

In 2009 China pledged to reduce its output of greenhouse gases 40-45% per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. Since Chinese emissions continue to grow, this does not equal a reduction in absolute emissions.

Development goals

Due to the rate of its greenhouse gas emissions, China’s contribution to a 2015 UN climate deal will be crucial to the global push to stop global warming reaching dangerous levels. China is engaging in intense diplomacy with other large emitters from the developed world, particularly the US, in order to figure out how to shape such a deal.

Ban also highlighted the importance of shaping the UN’s new development framework, called the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The new targets, he said, will help to end extreme poverty and “allow us to focus on sustainable development as a model for the global economy.”

The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the world, said Ban: “Key resources – energy, food, land, water, clean air – are in progressively shorter supply.”

Scientists, economists and the military have all sounded the alarm on the negative consequences of a warmer world.

A report last week from ratings agency Standard and Poor (S&P) warned that climate change could threaten sovereign credit ratings, with vulnerable countries being hit the hardest. Bangladesh, Senegal and Vietnam were the placed at the bottom of S&P’s ranking of vulnerable countries.

The report explained: “This is in part due to their reliance on agricultural production and employment, which can be vulnerable to shifting climate patterns and extreme weather events, but also due to their weaker capacity to absorb the financial cost.”

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Posted in Archives, China, Obama Styling, Real World's News, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Photo

Ukrainian soldiers guarded a base outside Izyum on Monday, as Russia announced another pullback of its forces from the border. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin said Monday that he was withdrawing Russian troops from the border with Ukraine, the second time he has said that in less than two weeks. He also praised the government in Kiev, which he had previously called an illegal, fascist junta, for its willingness to negotiate structural changes.

But the intended audience for these conciliatory remarks may not have been the United States and Europe, who would distrust them in any event. No, Mr. Putin’s gaze was more likely fixed on China, where he arrives on Tuesday by all accounts determined to show that he, too, wants to pivot to Asia.

 

While Mr. Putin has been casting an eye eastward practically since he returned to the presidency in 2012, the crisis in relations with the West over Ukraine has made ties to Asia, and particularly relations with its economic engine, China, a key strategic priority. With Europe trying to wean itself off Russian gas, and the possibility of far more serious Western sanctions looming should the crisis deepen, Moscow needs an alternative.

Mr. Putin has stressed repeatedly in recent weeks that Russia sees its economic future with China, noting that its Asian neighbor was on track to surpass the United States as the leading global economic power. A tilt to the East is also in keeping with Mr. Putin’s recent turn to a conservative nationalist ideology, emphasizing religion, family values and patriotism in contrast to what he sees as the increasingly godless, relativist and decadent West.

“Today, Russia firmly places China at the top of its foreign trade partners,” Mr. Putin said in an interview with Chinese journalists on the eve of his visit, according to a transcript released Monday by the Kremlin. “In the context of turbulent global economy, the strengthening of mutually beneficial trade and economic ties, as well as the increase of investment flows between Russia and China, are of paramount importance.”

Mr. Putin’s announcement of a pullback of Russian forces from the Ukraine border was likely to help calm the situation there before presidential elections scheduled for Sunday. But it could also be seen as a gesture to Chinese sensitivities about separatism, given Beijing’s continuing troubles with Tibet, the Uighurs and scores of lesser-known ethnic and religious minorities.

It was also the third time Mr. Putin had announced a pullback without any evidence of troops actually departing, the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, noted Monday at a news conference in Brussels.

The centerpiece of Mr. Putin’s two-day visit to China could well be a long-stalled deal with Russia to ship natural gas from new Siberian fields to China starting around 2019. The two have been haggling over the deal for a decade, but could not agree on a price for the gas.

Experts anticipate that Russia is finally prepared to come to terms, if only to let Washington and Western Europe know that it has other markets for its gas and important friends in the world.

“Because of this current disaster in our relations with the West, they have no alternative,” said Vasily B. Kashin, a China expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow policy organization. “They need to go to Asia to make any deals possible as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Putin is due in Normandy on June 6 for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He is likely to meet with President Obama and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Brandishing a new gas deal with China would strengthen Mr. Putin’s hand, helping deflate the threat of Western sanctions.

In the interview with Chinese journalists, Mr. Putin noted that bilateral trade with China last year was close to $90 billion. Although Russian trade with the European Union as a bloc is far larger, amounting to some $370 billion in 2012, trade with China is on par with leading individual partners like Germany. Trade with the United States was only $26 billion in 2012.

Russia needs new markets because it is hugely dependent on commodity exports, earning some 67 percent of its export income from oil and gas alone. Financing from China would also help offset reluctance by Western banks to extend new loans, given the threat of sanctions.

“There will be a natural gas agreement, which is very important not for the agreement itself, but because it will open the road for further, much bigger agreements in natural gas and other raw materials,” Mr. Kashin said.

Mr. Putin said Russia would try to increase trade volume with China to $100 billion next year and double that by 2020.

Aside from what he described as a “strategic energy alliance,” Mr. Putin mentioned possible joint projects in airplanes and helicopters, mining, agricultural processing and transportation infrastructure. Other technical and military cooperation agreements will also be discussed, but both sides tend to keep those secret, so details might not emerge for some months, experts said.

Russia and China, which share a border of more than 2,600 miles, have long had uneasy relations. Russia, wary about the economic gorilla along its southern borders, blocked Chinese investment, particularly in fields considered strategic like energy, except for two small deals. Mr. Putin on Monday clearly enunciated a more welcoming message.

“That is a big shift,” said Clifford Gaddy, of the Brookings Institution in Washington and the author of a book on Mr. Putin, “and indicates how serious they are in taking a step toward China.”

Mr. Gaddy added, “It is a shift in rhetoric, and we will see if it is followed up with a shift in action.”

In highlighting that the sanctions are helping to disrupt the Russian economy, the Obama administration has virtually ignored that it is pushing Russia toward greater dependence on China, Mr. Gaddy noted.

The Russians are hoping that China will also agree to help build a bridge linking the mainland to the Crimean port of Kerch, lending not only valuable expertise but also tacit endorsement of an annexation that much of the world considers illegal. There is no current land link to the annexed territory.

China abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote in March rejecting the referendum that Russia organized in Crimea before annexing it. That earned China special praise from Mr. Putin in his speech announcing the annexation.

Russia and China are also scheduled to hold joint naval exercises in China toward the end of the month, and President Xi Jinping was one of the few world leaders to put in an appearance at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the two sides will come to terms on the gas deal. Alexei Miller, the chief executive of state-run Gazprom, announced over the weekend that Russia and China had agreed on everything in the 30-year contract except the price.

Experts noted that the price gap had endured for years, although it is generally believed to have shrunk from hundreds of dollars per thousand cubic meters to $50 or less. Before, Moscow’s bargaining strategy was to wait out the Chinese, figuring that their insatiable appetite for natural resources would bring them to Russia’s doorstep at favorable terms.

But analysts believe that passive strategy is over.

“There is no more time, with sanctions escalating,” said Ildar Davletshin, the head of oil and gas research at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank. “Russia has become more desperate to get a real outlet.”

Mr. Davletshin also noted that as negotiations had dragged on, Russia gradually lost market share to other suppliers in Central Asia.

Russia, with its massive resources, is attractive to the Chinese. “Russia is just across the river and it is vast and underpopulated, so it is attractive for China to own a piece,” Mr. Davletshin said.

That also puts its resources out of reach of American sanctions and the United States Navy, analysts noted.

As initially conceived, Russian gas was to enter China in its far west, where the demand was lowest, and in the ensuing years China negotiated deals for other, cheaper sources.

So the current deal concentrates on selling 38 billion cubic meters of gas, worth about $14 billion if they agree to a price of around $380 per thousand cubic meters, as analysts expect. Part of the bargaining also concerns the financing China might provide to build the nearly 1,500 mile pipeline, estimated to cost $30 billion.

 

Andrew Higgins contributed reporting from Brussels.

 

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